McIlroy enjoying challenge of cracking Sawgrass code

By Randall MellMay 9, 2015, 12:21 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy moves into the weekend closer to “cracking the code.”

That’s what the world No. 1 called the challenge The Players Championship presents him.

The TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course isn’t the kind of test you imagine playing to McIlroy’s strengths, not with the claustrophobic confines limiting his power and the use of his favorite club, his Thor’s hammer. As much as McIlroy loves to hit driver, he has learned to mostly leave it in his bag making his way around with a game plan more conservative than he’s accustomed.

That’s the challenge that would make a victory this weekend extra meaningful to him.

Winning on a course like this would add to McIlroy’s already impressive golf pedigree.

It would say something about the breadth of his skill, smarts and temperament.

“I feel like it would make me a more complete player,” McIlroy said on the eve of this championship.

With a 1-under-par 71 Friday, McIlroy moves into the weekend tied for 13th, four shots off the lead.

“A lot can happen, and I feel like I’m in a decent position,” McIlroy said.

So much for the sentiment that architect Pete Dye’s design leveled the field for world No. 2 Jordan Spieth in his pairing with McIlroy through the first two rounds. McIlroy enters the weekend in contention while Spieth is going home after missing the cut.

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Listening to McIlroy and Spieth talk about the Stadium Course earlier this week, it was easy to conclude that the design favored Spieth, because it appeared to take away McIlroy’s biggest advantage, his power. It was easy to ignore McIlroy’s assertion that he likes this golf course and relishes the challenge to “win a different way.” He meant it, though. You see it in how he’s dissecting Dye’s design.

“I’ve always enjoyed this golf course, but it has taken me awhile to learn to play it,” McIlroy said. “You’ve just got to do everything well.”

Therein lies the bonus for McIlroy winning here, knowing he did the extra work to “crack the code,” that he pulled on a deep well of diverse talents.

“A little bit like Wentworth last year, where that's a golf course I had always struggled on, but I found a way to get it done,” McIlroy said of his victory at the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.

McIlroy got himself within two shots of the lead late Friday at The Players before a stumble coming home. He tried to reach the 16th green with a big cut from the rough but overcooked it, carving his shot in the water. He made bogey.

“I limited the damage, only made a bogey,” McIlroy said. “That's what you sort of have to do around this course, just keep the mistakes to a minimum and pick off your birdies where you can.”

And play conservatively, he said, even when Dye tempts you to attack.

“I was pretty bored out there,” McIlroy said. “I'm not sure how you guys felt about watching it. Just try and hit fairways, hit greens, pick off my birdies when I could.”

That’s what McIlroy calls cracking the code.

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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.