Talking to Tiger Caddying for Palmer
I really enjoy your In His Own Words segments with Tiger Woods. You have an excellent rapport with him and appear to bring out a playfulness in him that other interviewers seem to miss. How do you prepare to interview someone like Tiger Woods? Does he intimidate you? Keep up the excellent work. ' Jo
Tiger is a rare person and one of the nicest guys youll ever meet. Ive had the privilege of interviewing him now for more than a decade and every opportunity to speak with him is a chance to get to know him a little better. I try to prepare for his interviews with questions to which no one already knows the answer. Sometimes they are obvious and other times, you have to work a little harder. What I have learned over the years is that, outside of his superhuman skills with a golf club and the benefits that may bring him, he is just like you and me. He has a great sense of humor and a deep love for his family and friends. Im glad you enjoy the interviews.
You do such a great job on TV that I think you would be great on one of those network morning shows (like the Today Show). Do you have plans to work in broadcasting beyond golf? ' Mike
Thanks so much for getting in touch. So you think I would be a good addition to the 'Today Show'? Thanks. I appreciate your thoughts but that would require me getting up at 3 a.m. to go to work (she said with a smile). I often wondered how Katie Couric did that every day. Actually, I have thought many times about what it would be like to cover different stories, live in a different city and work different hours. But as interesting as that may seem, I have no real reason to look for a new job because I feel that the sport of golf is very healthy right now. If I ever found myself bored or without challenge, then I would consider a new direction, but I dont feel like my career is getting stale because the GOLF CHANNEL continues to grow and provide new challenges.
I am an avid fan of The Golf Channel and I'm wondering if you tape or tevo (sp) the broadcast and later watch yourself on TV? ' Michael from New Jersey
Thanks for your question. Its a popular one. Because of my schedule on the road, I dont get to watch our primetime re-airs at night but I do have the opportunity to watch the shows on tape when I get home. I like to compare it to a golfer looking at video of his or her own swing. It helps to see it on occasion so that you can better understand how you are coming across, but you shouldnt watch too much because you can become overly critical and lose sight of the big picture. At this point in my career I need to trust the skills that I have honed all the while never losing that hunger to improve on each telecast.
Thanks for watching.
I saw you caddying for Arnold Palmer in the Masters par 3 tournament. How much fun was that? Give him any tips? ' Ann from Ohio
Ill never forget the first time I caddied for Arnold at the 2003 Masters. He also played with Jack and Gary in the Par-3 contest. I didnt think it could get any better than that or that there would be a second opportunity but I was wrong on both counts. The first time I was so overwhelmed that I just tried to stay out of the way. This time, I was much more interactive with the guys and eager to soak up the fun. Being inside the ropes with these icons gives you a true appreciation for how the fans relate to them. You can really feel the love they have for Arnie. When we reached the 9th tee, I had no idea that Jack was going to pull a fast one and ask me to hit a shot in front of all those screaming fans. It was the most nerve racking experience of my life. Thankfully, I made it over the water and my boss was proud of the effort. After I gave Jack an exhilarating high five, I promised him that paybacks would be coming his way. What a day!
Thanks for the question.
What is your favorite tournament to cover and what event have you never done that you want to do? ' Fritz
I dont really have a favorite tournament to cover. I like them all for different reasons but I will say that I have a few favorite cities to visit on the schedule. I like to go to Hawaii because its my one chance all year to surf. I like San Diego because of the weather. I like Chicago because that means hot dogs and baseball games. When youre on the road as much as we are, you tend to drift toward the stops that offer variety. We have a great job here at the GOLF CHANNEL, because we always seem to be chasing the sun.
Email Kelly with your questions for next month's Q&A
Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.
The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?
“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.
After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.
“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”
Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration
ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.
He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.
Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.
McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.
“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”
A performance fit for a King
ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.
So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.
“Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”
But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.
“Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.
But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.
Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.
Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.
Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”
McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.
“I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.
And entertained, of course.
Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.
“And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"
McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”
McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.
During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.
But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.
“The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.
McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.
“He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.
Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.
And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.
“The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”
All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.
Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.
Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.
Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.
“I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”
Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.
“He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.
“It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.
Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.
But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.
There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.
A kiss for his wife, Erica.
A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.
The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.
“Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”
McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish
ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.
McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.
“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”
A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.
Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.
“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”