McIlroy needs conviction to reach true potential

By Joe PosnanskiJune 18, 2016, 2:35 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – The first Avengers has this glorious exchange between the villain, Loki, and Shield agent Phil Coulson. You will remember the scene: Things are at their bleakest for the Avengers, not least because Coulson is about to die.

 “You’re going to lose,” Agent Coulson says.

“Am I?” Loki says. “Your heroes are scattered. Your floating fortress falls from the sky. Where is my disadvantage?”

“You lack conviction,” Coulson says.

Rory McIlroy probably has the best A game in golf today. That is to say: If every single player on earth played their very best for one major championship tournament – with the caveat that we have no idea what Tiger Woods’ best would even look like – Rory McIlroy would probably win. In fact, he would probably win convincingly. Yes, of course, there are others who have blinding A games. Jason Day can overpower golf courses. Dustin Johnson can make the game look ridiculously easy (and did just that in the first round of the U.S. Open). Jordan Spieth can go for stretches where he never misses a putt.

But McIlroy … it’s almost surreal how good he is when he’s right. We’ve all seen it. We saw it in his eight-shot victory at the 2011 U.S. Open. We saw it in his eight-shot victory at the 2012 PGA Championship. The guy shot 17 under to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and he shot 22 under to win in Dubai and he once shot 62 in the final round to win at Quail Hollow. When he is locked in, truly locked in, he is the one guy out there who can make you think about vintage Woods or vintage Jack Nicklaus, the player who was so much better than anyone else that there was almost no point in even trying.

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But, there’s the rub. What made Tiger Tiger, what made Jack Jack, were not those days when they striped the ball down the heart of every fairway and knocked down flagsticks with their approach shots and made all the putts. What made those guys so great was that they won most of the time without their A games.

“How many of your 18 major championships would you say that you were not playing well?” I asked Nicklaus.

“At least a dozen of them,” he said.

This is the part McIlroy can’t quite get. When he’s on, forget it. And when he’s off, well, forget it. Since 2010, he’s won four major championships. He’s missed the cut at four major championships. He’s finished top 10 another seven times. He’s finished 25th or worse another five times. He’s on. He’s off. He’s dazzling. He’s lost. It’s a wicked ride with Rory McIlroy.

And more and more you get this sense that, yes, he lacks conviction.

Take this week. McIlroy came to the U.S. Open at Oakmont with a vivid plan to win at one of the world’s toughest golf courses. “You have to be so disciplined,” he said.

He talked about always hitting the ball to the proper spots. “You could go a whole round here without hitting at any pin,” he said.

He talked about being conservative. “I’m an aggressive player … there’s just going to be times where I’m going to have to rein it back a little.”

He talked about how much he has learned from experience. He’s not a kid anymore. “I think with experience, you learn what a good score is on that particular day,” he says. “Or, if you're not playing so well, [you learn] how to just grind it out and make pars and try to get it in the clubhouse at a respectable score. And I feel like just over the years I've learned how to do that a little bit better.”

And then, in the first round, under admittedly irritating conditions – starts and stops, weather delays, etc. – McIlroy shot a miserable 77. It was the eighth time he has shot 77 or worse at a major championship. His plan for scaling things back and hitting fairways and greens was, to put it mildly, a disaster. “I think I hit five fairways and eight greens out there,” he said despondently after the round. “Which, obviously, isn’t going to do anything.”

Then he said this: “With the way the golf course is, with it being so soft, I might just go out there in the second round and hit a lot of drivers and try to be as aggressive as I possibly can.”

OK, do you see that? Four days earlier, he went on about pulling back his aggression, reining things back, grinding it out. And then, after a bad round, he talked about cracking drivers and hoping for the best. Conviction. It seems to be the overwhelming hurdle for McIlroy.

Before the Masters began, he talked about how he eager he was to rise up to the challenge of the emerging Jordan Spieth. “It’s my job” he said of Spieth, “and Jason’s [Day] job and everyone else’s job to stop [Spieth] from dominating.” Then, when he was actually paired with the leader Spieth, he talked about how “I don’t even look at the names to the left of the leaderboard.”

A couple of years ago, he talked about wanting to insert some of Woods’ intensity into his own game. Then, shortly after that, he talked about how he did not want to be like Woods; he needed to be himself.

This is a common thing, of course, a young person trying to find what they are about. And, it’s easy to forget, McIlroy is a young man who just turned 27. Still: Golf is a game of conviction. It is a game of belief. Ask anyone: One of the things that made Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Woods and others the very best in the world is that they believed it more deeply than anyone else. They felt destined to win because, hey, seriously, who could beat them?

But where do you get that sort of conviction? How do you build it? After the miserable first round, McIlroy went out to the driving range and worked on his swing for a long time.

“I think for me,” he says, “the toughest thing is just trying to stay positive and not get too down on myself and try to go out there … and try to play well and make it into the weekend. Yeah, I think right now I’m just trying to stay as positive as I can.”

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.