Tiger Wins US Still Trails

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 28, 2002, 4:00 pm
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England ' Tiger Woods finally won a match, while his team maintained its one-point deficit in the 34th Ryder Cup Matches.
Woods teamed with Davis Love III in Saturday mornings foursome matches to top Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, 4-and-3.
The victory was a bit of revenge for Woods, who lost to the same twosome when paired with Paul Azinger in Friday mornings four-ball match.
'Being 0-2 yesterday wasn't exactly a great feeling,' Woods said. 'It was tough sleeping last night. The fact that I had Davis coming out this morning, I was pumped up and excited about it. We went out and played well.'
Despite the victory, the U.S. wasnt able to gain any ground on the Europeans, as they split the morning matches, 2-2. The home team leads 6 - 5 heading into Saturday afternoons four four-ball matches ' a format that traditionally, and recently, has been owned by the Europeans.
Europe won three of the four Friday four-ball matches. The U.S. hasnt won a better-ball session since 1995.
The morning matches were a deviation from its predecessor ' classical music turned to techno, well-constructed sounds transformed into break beats.
One reason for the difference was the softer conditions ' players had a difficult time getting the ball to the hole on the dewy greens. But the primary logic lay in the format.
Friday morning, players competed in four-balls, hitting each shot on every hole. Saturday, it was the red-light-green-light format of alternate shot.
I dont think you can ever really get used to it, U.S. captain Curtis Strange said of alternate shot, especially in this cool, damp weather.
In the first group out at 8:00 AM local time, Phil Mickelson and David Toms teamed for the third time in as many opportunities. They collected a win and a huge half Friday, and earned win No. 2 at the expense of rookies Pierre Fulke and Phillip Price.
After being sidelined on Day 1, Fulke and Price led through 12 holes Saturday morning. But back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 gave the Americans a 1-up lead.
Mickelson hit a 3-wood from 249 yard that came to rest two feet from the hole at the par-5 15th. The eagle was conceded and they went on to win 2-and-1. The victory tied the overall score at 4 - 4 .
I felt we were only one point down, and the first match could square the Ryder Cup so far. And it was up to us to do that,' Mickelson said.
The Woods-and-Love victory gave the Americans their first lead of the Matches, 5 - 4 . Strange said he had a hunch the two would fare well together, and he was correct. After losing the first hole, they won three of the next five to take a 2-up lead. That advantage grew to 3-up with a par the 11th. They went on to win convincingly, 4-and-3.
Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood gave the Europeans their first point of the day, and evened the overall score with a 2-and-1 victory over Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk.
Playing together for the third straight match, the two sprayed balls all over the Brabazon course at The Belfry, but still led 1-up when Westwood missed a two-footer at 15 that would have put them 2-up with three to play.
The Americans didnt accept their gift, however, as they bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall 2-down with two to play. A par-5 at the 17th then gave the Europeans the win.
'Maybe we struggled a bit today but that goes with the pressure of trying to win as many points as you can,' said Garcia. 'It wasn't the greatest match in Ryder Cup history but we managed to win it.'
Garcia is now 6-0-1 when playing as part of a team. He carried Jesper Parnevik to three victories and a half in 1999, and has earned three more points this year with Westwood.
Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer won the swing match. They defeated Scott Verplank and Scott Hoch, 1-up
The Americans birdied the 15th to pull all square, but missed an opportunity at 16. Verplank failed to convert a 10-foot birdie putt that would have given his team a 1-up advantage.
Langer stuck his approach shot on 17 to 12 feet, from where Montgomerie made birdie to give his team a 1-up lead.
Montgomerie hit the fairway at the par-4 18th, and Langer reached the green. The Scot almost barrled in the birdie putt, but made a solid par.
Hoch had to chip in to win the hole and halve the match, but just missed.
'It was one of those mornings when any of the matches could have gone either way and 2-2 was probably about right,' Torrance said. 'Our aim is to stay out in front and we've done that.'
Langer tied Nick Faldo for most foursome matches won in Ryder Cup history, with 18. He owns the record in relation to points won, with 11 . The 10-time Ryder Cupper also surpassed Seve Ballesteros for second on the Europeans all-time overall points list. With 23 career points, Langer trails only Faldo (25). Billy Casper owns the American record, with 23 .
In addition to the four afternoon four-balls, they will play 12 singles matches on Sunday. A team must win 14 points to win the Matches. Being the defending champions, the U.S. can retain the Cup by earning a 14-14 tie.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

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.

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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.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

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.

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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.”

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A performance fit for a King

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

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.”

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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.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

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.’”

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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.”