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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.