McIlroy's Open win feels like milestone moment

By Jason SobelJuly 22, 2014, 4:45 pm

It’s a funny thing, this business of defining time periods by separate eras. We never quite know when one is ending and the next is beginning – not while that transition is happening, at least. There is no specific date on the calendar, no handy color-coded chart to help us immediately understand exactly what we’re witnessing at the time.

Dinosaurs didn’t just show up on earth one day and declare it the Jurassic period; more recently, historians can’t pinpoint one singular action that ended the Renaissance.

And in a transition of slightly less global significance, we might not know for years whether Sunday afternoon, when the final putt of the Open Championship was tapped into the final hole, was the exact moment when the golf world shifted from the Tiger Woods Era to the Rory McIlroy Era.

It sure felt that way, though.

Ultimately, history will decide if McIlroy’s third career major victory officially ushered us into this new era in the game. But in a week where Woods – who won the last time this tournament was held at Hoylake – finished 68 spots behind his youthful pal, this one appears earmarked as a milestone moment.

Call it a changing of the guard or a passing of the torch or a textbook example of out with the old and in with the new, but the facts clearly outweigh any hyperbole.

In the time since Woods’ last major victory, McIlroy has three of ‘em. As Woods continues to slide down the world ranking, McIlroy continues to climb. With Woods seemingly growing more frustrated with his on-course performance, McIlroy appears unburdened by any demons from his past.

Years from now, we’ll very well look back on this one in the same manner that we review the 1960 U.S. Open. In a tournament that is often considered a crossroads of the generational gap, Ben Hogan was upstaged by 30-year-old Arnold Palmer defeating 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus by two strokes. Hogan would never again win a professional tournament.

This latest transition period, however, likely won’t prompt such a dramatic fade, just as it won’t provoke the sudden spike that occurred when Woods won the 1997 Masters. He will win again – and he could very well win multiple major championships from the age of 38 and beyond. Instead, this has a more similar feel to the latter part of the career of the man Woods is chasing.

Nicklaus was 38 when he won his 15th major title – one more than Woods owns now. That was in 1978, but two years and exactly zero wins later, the Jack Nicklaus Era had given way to one led by young upstarts like Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. When the Golden Bear was able to win the 1980 U.S. Open and follow it with a PGA Championship two months later, he was impinging on the next generation’s era rather than extending his own. By the time he won his 18th and final major at the 1986 Masters, his personal era was long a thing of the past.

Woods prides himself on being a golf historian and so he knows all of this already. He understands that one generation giving way to the next doesn’t necessarily mean the older players will be shut out from ever winning again.

Woods also realizes that although McIlroy’s early accomplishments might not be level with those from the early part of his own career, they are eerily reminiscent. The accolades, at least, if not the consistency.

“The way he plays is pretty aggressively,” Woods analyzed Sunday, comparing him favorably with Phil Mickelson. “When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It's one or the other.”

Rory joined Jack and Tiger as the only players in the Masters era with three major titles by the age of 25. He’s now just a green jacket away from becoming the sixth player in history to win the career grand slam, all of which should feed into this transition period.

While the festivities at Augusta National have often been hailed as Tigermania, the circus will appear more like Rorymania next April, when he attempts to join that exclusive club.

If that’s not enough to sound the alarms of change, then try this: Mickelson, with five major titles and more than three dozen other PGA Tour wins, is on the short list of the greatest players of all-time. He’s certainly inside the top 15, arguably amongst the top 12, pushing toward the top 10.

Well, McIlroy owns three majors at an age that’s eight years younger than Mickelson when he won his first.

That’s just another on a long list of reasons why the transition to a new era felt complete on Sunday. It's not an exaggeration to state that golf has apparently entered a new time period. Every generation has eventually succumbed to the next one, but rarely has that process taken place in such an abrupt manner.

History will tell us whether that’s true. Years from now, though, don’t be surprised if we look back on these days as the beginning of what’s forever remembered as the Rory McIlroy Era.

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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."