McIlroy happy with being returning champion

By Jason SobelJune 12, 2012, 11:21 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Rory McIlroy has finally hit the big-time.

A major championship? Not bad. A stint atop the world ranking? Cool. A world-class tennis-playing girlfriend? Hey, whatever floats your boat.

These days, though, a celebrity hasn’t truly made it big until he’s received his own bobblehead doll (pictured above). With a likeness that he calls “maybe better looking than me, which is a good thing” given out at Tuesday night’s San Francisco Giants game as part of Irish Heritage Night, McIlroy has been launched into an echelon that includes everyone from rock-and-roll stars to low-level politicians.

Like them – and their bobbleheads, too – McIlroy has a penchant for nodding his noggin at times, less yes man than just an agreeable lad.

In advance of his title defense at this week’s 112th U.S. Open Championship, the 23-year-old was peppered by reporters on a variety of topics and, much like his saluting statue, appeared amenable to most hypotheses.

Video: Rory McIlroy news conference

Video: Tiger Woods news conference

Video: Phil Mickelson news conference

On whether he’s enjoyed returning to the U.S. Open as defending champion:

Yeah, for sure. It's been a great 12 months. To play these 12 months as a major champion and get to deal with everything that comes along with that has been a great experience…

On whether his recent string of three straight missed cuts hurt his confidence:

Yeah, of course it does. I think it's only natural you just start to question yourself and question your game a little bit…

On whether last week’s title contention helped that confidence:

Yeah, it was important for me. That was the whole reason to go to Memphis last week…

On whether his definition of a successful week has changed:

Yeah, it has, for sure. You're not just happy with top 10's anymore, and you're not happy finishing in the top five…

On whether becoming No. 1 once again will be tougher than he once thought:

Yeah, it is what it is. Luke has got a little bit of a lead. But it's so volatile, it can just change so much… 

On whether this week’s course setup will be exceedingly severe:

Yeah, I mean you've got to concentrate over every shot here...

All those “yeahs” are enough to leave a guy bobblin’ his head for minutes after being prompted, but the accordances underscore the meaning behind the rhetoric. In simpler terms, he may be agreeable, but McIlroy isn’t without articulate opinions – from his own game to course setup to, well, anything else that he’s asked to address.

With world-class players like Matteo Manassero four years his junior and Andy Zhang reaching this week’s field at age 14, we sometimes overlook McIlroy’s youthfulness. Perhaps that’s a result of being a professional for a half-decade already or enjoying so much early success in his career, but mostly it’s due to his interview room proficiency and lack of trying to hide his viewpoints or push any agendas.

McIlroy is indeed a rare breath of fresh air in a celebrity world where Q-rating so often stands for anything but quality.

He speaks his mind, which is all anyone can ask for when, well, asking something.

“Last year at Congressional it was great to get that monkey off my back, if you want to say that, very early in my career,” he said. “It's been great. The last 12 months has been fantastic. I felt like I played very well in that time. And really looking forward to this week and giving it a good go in trying to defend.”

Whatever happens, he’ll always have that bobbling doppelganger to nod along in agreement.

And don’t think others haven’t taken notice. When asked why the world’s No. 2-ranked player has his own ceramic likeness and he doesn’t, No. 1-ranked Luke Donald explained that he still has work left to do.

“Probably win a U.S. Open by eight shots,” he said. “Or at least by one.”

Rory McIlroy wasn’t around when he said those words, but no doubt he would have agreed, his self-described better-looking bobblehead nodding in unison.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."