Weve Been Waiting For You

By John HawkinsMay 3, 2010, 9:36 pm
He was hitting balls on the far-left end of the practice range in the Friday evening twilight, nobody else around, fresh off his first pro victory at the Dubai Desert Classic and a pair of early-round wins at last year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play. Up close, you could see the kid was all curls and freckles, but when he swung the golf club, his exaggerated lag through the contact zone produced a sound and flight few tour pros could duplicate.
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy celebrates his birdie putt on the final hole Sunday at Quail Hollow. (Getty Images)
I took a seat on the grass maybe 15 yards away and watched Rory McIlroy for the next 20 minutes, marveling his talent, wondering if the game had finally found its first post-Tiger superstar. I sat in on a couple of his interviews that week and, like everyone else at the Match Play, came away impressed with McIlroy’s uncomplicated Irish charm and big-league composure. He admitted to being a Woods worshiper. He said he wasn’t cutting his hair, innocence aflutter. This wasn’t some cleverly programmed 19-year-old straight out of Tour Pro Finishing School.

McIlroy didn’t have to work hard to say the right things or transmit the right vibe. His golf ball seemed to spend hours in the air, but his feet were firmly on the ground, his phony needle stuck on empty. All that may not help you shoot lower scores, but it will come in handy when dealing with the attention that comes with those low numbers.

Ten years earlier, I’d seen Sergio Garcia make a huge splash in his U.S. debut, finishing T-3 in Dallas, smiling like a prom queen, glowing amid the adulation that comes with playing the role of golf’s fresh young phenom. Now he’s fast becoming the can’t-miss kid who did, or at the very least, a player whose career is trending in a ultra-discouraging direction. Perhaps just as sadly, Sergio’s effervescent personality has been flattened by a decade of failure and a penchant for self-pity, a combination that frequently brings the cart and the horse into play.

Charles Howell III, Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley – the list of those who have fallen 4 down to the weight of expectations during the Woods dynasty is not getting any shorter, which takes us back to McIlroy. He is the rarest of combinations: a player with the polished fundamentals of Scott and the enviable touch Garcia once had. For all the ex-young guns who can make eight birdies but can’t get up and down, McIlroy’s short game is among his strongest assets.

Still, talent accounts for no more than 30 to 40 percent of greatness. One victory won’t buy you a berth in the World Golf Hall of Fame, but McIlroy’s first U.S. triumph was the work of a player with special qualities. To shoot a 62 in the final round on a course as tough as Quail Hollow – against the best field we’ll see all year at a non-major — is heady stuff. To win the tournament after making the cut on the number is almost absurd, especially with so many premium players. To roar to the top of a leader board that includes Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera and hit nothing but spectacular shots down the stretch is what superstars do, even if they’re still serving their apprenticeship.

He made the cut at all four majors in 2009, his best coming at the PGA Championship – third behind Y.E. Yang and Woods. McIlroy’s only major finish outside the top 20 came at the British Open. At this time last year, the plan was for McIlroy to play full-time in Europe, but after 11 starts and $849,719 in America, the kid realized he couldn’t beat any of the world’s best players while parked on that side of the ocean.

Garcia had come to the same conclusion, and for the better part of those 10 years, things went swimmingly over here, but Sergio never really found a home in the U.S. He flew back to Spain the way some people drive to the other side of town, except Spain is a lot further, and in a game where two or three strokes a week can be the difference between success and a mess, a player needs roots. A few ounces of common sense never killed anybody, either.

McIlroy turns 21 on Tuesday, and if this crazy game merely laughs at the notion of guaranteed stardom, his brilliant future and resilient present are charging toward each other at full gallop. That fabulous finishing kick at Quail Hollow, which actually lasted about 36 holes, was the kind of performance only special players can produce, and McIlroy is indeed special. If the ungrounded Garcia has become the how-not-to template on matters involving disruption of the Woods Dynasty, the wide-eyed lad from Holywood seems to understand the difference between the promised land and the land of promise.

That’s Holywood, Northern Ireland. Not the one in California.
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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.

Rules changes include no more viewer call-ins

By Rex HoggardDecember 11, 2017, 12:00 pm

Although the Rules of Golf modernization is still a year away, officials continue to refine parts of the rulebook including an overhaul of the video review protocols.

A “working group” led by the USGA and R&A announced on Monday the new protocols, which include assigning a rule official to a tournament broadcast to resolve rules issues.

The group – which includes the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA tour and PGA of America – also voted to stop considering viewer call-ins when processing potential rule violations.

In addition, a new local rule was announced that will discontinue the penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard when the player was unaware of the violation.

In April, Lexi Thompson was penalized four strokes during the final round when officials at the ANA Inspiration learned via e-mail from a viewer of an infraction that occurred during the third round. Thompson was penalized two strokes for incorrectly marking her golf ball and two for signing an incorrect scorecard.

“The message is, as a fan, enjoy watching the game and the best players in the world, but also have the confidence that the committee in charge of the competition have the rules handled,” Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf, said on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" on Monday. “Let’s leave the rules and the administration of the event to the players and to those responsible for running the tournament.”

The working group was created in April to review the use of video in applying the rules and the role of viewer call-ins, and initially issued a decision to limit the use of video through the introduction of the “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standard.

According to that decision, which was not a rule, “so long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be inaccurate by the use of video evidence.”

The new protocols will be implemented starting on Jan. 1.

A comprehensive overhaul of the Rules of Golf is currently underway by the USGA and R&A that will begin on Jan. 1, 2019.