Monday Scramble: McIlroy's struggles continue

By Mercer BaggsJune 1, 2015, 12:00 pm

Steven Bowditch won his second PGA Tour event, the Byron Nelson turned into a sloppy mess in the second round, Rory McIlroy missed a second consecutive cut, and I'm writing a second consecutive Monday Scramble:

There is reason to be concerned following McIlroy's 80-71 showcase at Royal County Down. Not necessarily for the U.S. Open, but for further down the road. Golf Digest's Jaime Diaz said the same thing much more eloquently and intelligently than can I, so I encourage you to click here and read it.

It's good to hear a powerful and well-respected voice in the game question McIlroy's willingness to grind. We'll say in the future, "McIlroy turned a 75 into a 71 today." But in the present, that 75 is an 80. And 71's should be 68's.

This is disconcerting from a world No. 1. Even more so when you consider McIlroy should go down as one of the top 10 players of all time. He may win the U.S. Open by eight shots in a few weeks, and if so, some will say 'Eat crow.' (People still say that?) But that would be missing the point of this Takeaway. Rory will win many, many times. He will win majors and win by large margins. But, eventually, at some point, he will miss consecutive cuts again. He will get loose with the driver early and never straighten the wheel. One missed 4-footer will turn into four missed 4-footers. That's just who is he for now - not necessarily forever.

Big deal. It happens to everyone. But McIlroy is special. His game is brilliant, of legendary proportions. He's good enough to win events by multiple shots without his best. He doesn't need to sustain that brilliance for long periods of time. He just needs to add in a consistency of averageness (by his standards). If he does that, forget a top-10 all-time player. We're talking a historical Big 3: Jack, Tiger and Rory.

1. Last week around these parts we exalted the PGA Tour for its bevy of fabulous finishes. Like during a no-hitter, perhaps we shouldn't have made mention, because the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship went and did this.

That's not to disparge champion Steven Bowditch. The 31-year-old Australian earned his victory with a final-round, 5-under 64 that included six birdies and several impressive par saves over his final 13 holes. Bowditch got married on the 18th hole at TPC Four Seasons and this is his second triumph in the Lone Star State (2014 Texas Open). He overcame the multiple weather delays and the akward setup. He's as worthy a winner as there's been on Tour this season.

I just wish I could stop staring at his eyebrows. He looks like Sam Eagle. Was he bitten by a werewolf? I. Just. Can't. Stop. Staring.



2. And, just to be safe, because one reader believed me to be serious last week when I said Chris Kirk's fourth PGA Tour win got him into the Hall of Fame conversation, I offer this:



Yes, it's low-brow humor (OK, puns are worse than sarcasm) but it's all I got.

3. Jordan Spieth, competing in his hometown event, finished T-30 at the Byron Nelson. The highlight of his week came in a 5-under 64 on Friday while grouped with friend Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. Spieth, born in Dallas and still an area resident, is the Nelson's saving grace. He's 21, a major champion, a fan favorite and never likely to abandon this tournament.

Tiger Woods stopped playing the Nelson in 2005. Mr. Nelson died in 2006. The event has struggled to stand out ever since. It's still not on par with upper-echelon Tour stops, like this week's Memorial Tournament, but Spieth's involvement - along with his primary sponsor, AT&T, serving as title sponsor of the Nelson - adds enough weight to keep the event from floating into obscurity.

4. McIlroy stepped out Sunday with his new girlfriend, PGA of American employee Erica Stoll. Twitterverse and the tabloids were giddy. We created a photo gallery. Honestly, I just want to know who's the sidler in the background?



As far as his play in concerned - McIlroy has missed three consecutive cuts at the Irish Open, which his foundation hosts - here is a suggestion: the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation and Contested in Jupiter, Florida.

5. Soren Kjeldsen won the Irish Open despite a final-round, 5-over 76 on "wind-swept and rain-batterd Royal County Down," as the Associated Press described. Kjeldsen's playoff victory, his fourth on the European Tour, got him into the British Open. The top three players inside the top 10 at the Irish, not otherwise exempt into the British, earned a spot at St. Andrews. That included Eddie Pepperall, who, along with Bernd Wiesberger, lost to Kjeldsen on the first extra hole Sunday, and Tyrell Hatten (T-4). Hatten edged out Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who also finished T-4, by virtue of his higher world ranking (142nd to 148th). Similar golden tickets will be available at the French and Scottish Opens, as well as the three PGA Tour events between the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

6. The Nelson nearly had a top-15 winner. World No. 10 Dustin Johnson and No. 12 Jimmy Walker were in contention on Sunday. Johnson chipped in twice and then made a quadruple bogey-8 at the par-4 sixth. Walker stumbled around the turn and wasn't able to catch up late. We'll have to wait to see if Walker can measure up to the Rickie Fowler post-victory-kiss standard.



 7. Speaking of Fowler, he was in contention at the Irish Open until an 8-8 (quad-triple) finish on Saturday. His 76-73 weekend put him in a tie for 30th place. He was even par through two rounds, a notable accomplishment as his playing competitors, McIlroy (9 over) and Martin Kaymer (6 over), both missed the cut, with neither making a birdie in their first rounds.

8. The Stanford Cardinal won its first NCAA Women's National Championship in golf, defeating the Baylor Bears in a compelling match-play final. You can nitpick the tournament all you want, but the new format (four days of stroke-play qualifying, followed by three rounds of knock-out match play) was a success. The semifinals and finals produced great theater, from the Lauren Whyte-Lisa Maguire Final-Four duel, to the Mariah Stackhouse-Haley Davis thriller to determine a champion. The men are competing now at Concession Golf Club, with Golf Channel airing the final round of stroke play and the entire match-play portion.

9. Switching to the professional ladies, Anna Nordqvist won for the third time in two years (fifth in her career) at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Morgan Pressel missed another chance to end a seven-year winless drought, shooting 2-over 73 to drop from overnight leader to T-3.

10. Meanwhile, Michelle Wie returned from a hip injury to compete at the ShopRite. For two rounds. She missed the cut, shooting 74-72 (4 over). Following her breakout campaign last year, Wie doesn't have a top-10 in 12 starts this season. Only two Americans have won this year: Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome.

How dare you? You cynical lot of people. Just because 12 players withdrew prior to the start of the Byron Nelson Championship, where the weather forecast resembled Picaso's Blue Period, you go all Chuckie Sullivan (warning: profanity in video):



Ian Poulter strained something in the gym. Jason Day was dizzy. Kevin Kisner, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Kokrak, Scott Gardiner, Chris Stroud, Alex Cejka, George McNeill, Neal Lancaster, Fredrik Jacobson and Will Zalatoris had stuff. Al Czervick broke his arm.



"There is no such thing as coincidence," said a lot of people a lot of times. "Maybe some reasons are legitimate, but not all," said the doubters.

How can we unite as a society if we can't believe the excuses and non-excuses our professional golfers give to us when they back out of tournaments? You say, these guys are spoiled and abhor inconvience. I say ... well, you may be right:

U.S. Open sectionals began this past week, with 36-hole qualifiers in Japan and England. Ten Stateside qualifiers will be contested on June 8. ... Phil Mickelson was spotted practicing at Chambers Bay. ... European Ryder Cup qualifying for the 2016 Matches begins in Russia, in Sepetember. It will still be more interesting than current Presidents Cup qualifying. ... Rory McIlroy's Northern Ireland home is for sale. It was on the market before this past week's performance. ... European Solheim Cup captain Carin Koch named Sophie Gustafson and Martina McBride Maria McBride (formerly Hjorth) her vice captains, along with previously announced Annika Sorenstam. ... Alabama's Emma Talley won the NCAA women's individual title. ... And, on the men's side, the NCAA doled out four slow-play penalties during on Sunday. Hey, Finchem, you paying attention? 

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.