McIlroy stars in media center as he does on course

By Jason SobelAugust 5, 2014, 7:00 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rory McIlroy pauses at the top, just a brief hesitation, then delivers a meticulous measure that never veers from its intended target. In this forum, he is at once entertaining and awe-inspiring; those in attendance marveling at his ability to consistently perform with their collective glare wholly transfixed upon him.

There's no doubt that McIlroy is on his game right now. His interview game, that is.

As celebrated and formidable as McIlroy's on-course performance has appeared in recent weeks, he is similarly coming into his own in the media room, as comfortable with a camera lens and microphone in front of his face as he is with a pitching wedge in his hands. He is honest to a fault, equal parts charming and funny and engaging.

“Whenever I'm talking to you guys,” he told the media after his Sunday victory, “I want to try to be as open and as honest as possible and try and answer questions thoughtfully and articulately and just try and give you guys some good material.”

It sounds like a logical practice, especially when everything else is going in your favor. After all, there’s little to hide when your game consists of uncorking 350-yard drives down the fairway, piling up birdies and collecting trophies.

And yet, it's the very opposite of Tiger Woods' longtime strategy. Even when on top of his game, Woods has always taken pleasure in not just failing to disclose information, but actually crossing the lines to scramble our connection.

Perhaps that’s the most jarring repercussion of this transition from Tiger as the game’s best player to Rory holding that honor. While the former would only tell us what he wanted us to know, the latter grants us access to what we want to know. For example, while sitting next to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational trophy Sunday evening, McIlroy was asked how he spent the previous night.

He allowed that he watched the movie “Kick-Ass 2” – a fitting title considering his second consecutive win – and then shook his head and smiled while admitting he also caught some of the 1999 teen melodrama “Never Been Kissed.”

“That’s a little embarrassing,” he confessed.

But that’s just the thing. At least McIlroy does embarrassing, just like he offers admissions. It’s a stunning departure from the usual Woods rhetoric, which has rarely yielded a nugget which suggests he’s letting down his guard.

This isn't meant to only contrast these two players, though. Other top-ranked players have been similarly coy.

The man McIlroy unseated this week, Adam Scott, is as classy as they come, but he's not exactly the most forthright guy, earlier this year getting married before ever offering up that tidbit. When Martin Kaymer held that spot, he often looked like the kid in class silently praying that the teacher wouldn't call on him. Phil Mickelson has never ascended to that No. 1 position, but even his openness has always been tinged with agenda.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There’s no rule which states professional golfers must always be honest – and certainly no rule which states they must divulge their innermost thoughts in the most introspective manner possible.

McIlroy has learned this the hard way. When he withdrew from last year’s Honda Classic, his management team quickly issued a statement blaming a bothersome wisdom tooth. That little half-truth reportedly led to the player splitting from his team soon afterward.

Compare that with how he handled the aftermath of his recent engagement breakoff with Caroline Wozniacki. He could have no-commented the story into irrelevance, but instead faced a firing squad of questions prior to the BMW PGA Championship and answered each one. Oh, and if there’s a lesson in here somewhere: He won the tournament.

In the interview room on Tuesday prior to this week’s PGA Championship, McIlroy wasn’t exceptionally candid. He was just himself.

On the increased media attention: “I try not to read too much of the stuff that's being written, because if you read everything that was being written, I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament.”

On the secret to his power: “It's not like I'm going to get much bigger. I've put on three kilograms of muscle in the last eight weeks, so that definitely helps. I'm the heaviest I've ever been.”

On the current state of his game: “When I say I'm on my A-game, I think it's just everything; it just sort of feels comfortable. I feel like I drive the ball well, I hit fairways, I hit greens. I give myself plenty of chances for birdies. It's just, I play the right way.”

None of those responses led to any sort of epiphany, none of them caused observers to run toward social media with any breaking news.

But they did offer a little more insight into his thoughts and feelings, which is really all we can ask for.

That hasn’t always been the case for the game’s best player.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.