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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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”