Newsmaker of the Year, No. 7: Rory McIlroy

By Nick MentaDecember 11, 2015, 1:00 pm

When he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy in the dark last year at Valhalla, it seemed unthinkable that Rory McIlroy wouldn’t be on top of the golf world one year later.

If you had told someone – anyone – that McIlroy would win four times in 2015, including a World Golf Championship, and not be No. 1, you might have been dragged away by well-meaning gentlemen in white caddie smocks.

Go back and look at the world rankings on Aug. 10, 2014, the night of McIlroy’s PGA Championship victory. He was two points ahead of No. 2 Adam Scott, five and a half points ahead of No. 10 Jason Day and closer to six points ahead of No. 12 Jordan Spieth. The latter two would have to do something outrageous to pass him. Combined they would have to win something like 12 worldwide events, including three majors, for roughly $30 million.

And yet here we sit, with McIlroy behind Spieth and Day in the Official World Golf Ranking. The golf world suddenly has a new Big 3, and McIlroy, at least mathematically, is squarely third.

The reason? His absence.

McIlroy started the year with wins at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship. But just two weeks before what would have been his Open Championship defense, he suffered a “total rupture” of a ligament in his left ankle during what he called a “soccer kickabout” with friends.

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

In terms of breaking news, there was no sourced report. No carefully crafted statement from a team of handlers. No whispers of any kind. There was just a casual, albeit jarring Instagram post on the morning of July 6:

“Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends on Saturday,” McIlroy wrote next to a picture of himself on crutches, with his foot in a walking boot. “Continuing to assess extent of injury and treatment plan day by day. Rehab already started. … Working hard to get back as soon as I can.”

McIlroy didn’t make a start for two months between the U.S. Open and his return at the PGA Championship, where he played for two rounds with Spieth, who would go on to supplant him as world No. 1 at the end of the week.

Although McIlroy would return to No. 1 twice for a week at a time on Aug. 29 and Sept. 12 by virtue of how the ranking is calculated, he had clearly lost his No. 1 status in the hearts and minds of golf fans. Spieth had already won four times in 2015, including the Masters and U.S. Open, and Day was in the middle of a run that saw him win four times in six starts.

Even with three victories already to his name, by the time he reached the Tour Championship, a clearly discouraged McIlroy was ready to write off his year as a whole.

“I think it’s a lost year already, just because I didn’t win a major,” McIlroy said at East Lake. “I judge myself on the biggest tournaments and the biggest tournaments we have are the four majors, and I played OK in them but I didn’t win.”

True, but the Ulsterman himself would sing a different tune not even two months later. After winning his second DP World Championship and successfully defending his Race to Dubai title in November, Rory had suddenly shifted from calling his year “lost” to grading it an “A,” just not an “A+.”

Outside the ropes, there were reports that McIlroy got engaged and he found himself on the receiving end of some criticism when he admitted at the Tour Championship that the FedEx Cup’s $10 million purse doesn’t do much to motivate him, considering how much money he’s already made.

“Luckily, that amount of money doesn't sort of mean much to me anymore," he said at East Lake. "It will go in the bank and if I want to buy something nice, I will. It's nice to think that you could win $10 million this week, but that's not what excites me.

“It excites me to play well and to try and win. And the FedEx Cup is one of the only things that I haven't put on my golf CV, and that would be more exciting to do than walk away with a check.”

Just in his PGA Tour career, McIlroy has won $28 million. That doesn’t include his European Tour earnings, his reported $200 million Nike deal, or any other endorsements.

Oh, and that number also doesn’t include whatever he is now being paid by Electronic Arts. While he was on the shelf in July, EA Sports released its first Rory McIlroy PGA Tour video game, a title previously headlined for 16 editions by McIlroy’s Nike buddy, Tiger Woods. When EA was rebranding the game after a one-year hiatus, it announced McIlroy as the new face of the franchise in March.

At the time, honestly, who else could the company have picked? McIlroy was the undisputed best player in the world.

Now, he and Spieth are ranked exactly equal in McIlroy’s own video game. Call it a sign of the times.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.