McIlroy grabs Rd. 1 lead in return to Honda Classic

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2014, 12:00 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Call off the search party.

Bring home the bloodhounds.

Even with all the stars packed into the Honda Classic, none could be found on the leaderboard Thursday, not until Rory McIlroy bolted up it in a back-nine blitz late in the afternoon.

With a 7-under 63, McIlroy moved himself into early position to win this event for the second time in three years. He ended the day a shot ahead of Russell Henley and two ahead of Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Jamie Donaldson.

“I felt like I was in control of my ball all day,” a beaming McIlroy said after signing his scorecard. “I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and actually made quite a few putts. It's a golf course where you can't really fake it around. You have to play well to shoot good scores, and I was able to do that today.”

McIlroy, 24, can’t seem to step foot on the Champion Course without creating high drama.

Two years ago, he held off a hard charging Tiger Woods in the final round to win, the victory boosting him to No. 1 for the first time in the Official World Golf Ranking.

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Last year, amid struggles adjusting to new Nike equipment and all the expectations that accompanied the multi-million dollar deal, he walked off the course in the middle of the second round. He cited a toothache before later admitting the real pain was wounded pride over his inflated score.

Through the equipment switch, through management and contract disputes that led to lawsuits, through rumors about impending breakups with his high-profile, tennis star girlfriend, McIlroy’s game swooned last year. His swing was a mess, his mojo was gone, but he sent another message Thursday at PGA National that his game’s coming back strong.

“I couldn’t be in a better place,” McIlroy said.

He wasn’t just talking about the positions of his swing. He was talking about his marriage plans with Caroline Wozniacki, his new home in Palm Beach Gardens, the new management team around him.

“I couldn't be happier,” McIlroy said. “We've got a home here. Personal life is great. Looking forward to getting married at some point in the future, and I feel like if everything's settled off the course, then it helps me perform better on it.”

McIlroy is beginning to perform again like the young phenom who generated so much excitement winning a pair of major championships in runaways and being named PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2012.

Reigning Masters champ Adam Scott is seeing McIlroy’s re-emergence more closely than he would like.

Back in December, McIlroy denied Scott the Australian Triple Crown, coming from four shots behind Scott in the final round of the Australian Open to beat him with a birdie at the last. Scott was paired with McIlroy again at PGA National, the first time they played together since the Australian Open.

“He’s looking pretty sharp if you ask me,” Scott said. “He just didn’t make an error when I needed him to [in Australia]. He just wore me out there. Today, he was very good as well.”

McIlroy birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th holes to get onto the leaderboard at PGA National. He seized the outright lead closing with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes.

“I've reached a point now where I'm very comfortable with everything in my game and my swing,” McIlroy said. “I feel like the scores are just a byproduct of all the hard work.”

McIlroy said earlier this week that he should never have walked off PGA National last year, even though he felt like he just couldn’t cope with everything going on in his life. He said it would never happen again.

On Thursday, McIlroy said there is no attempt to redeem himself this week.

“It’s not like I was out there thinking about what had happened last year, or what had happened the year before that, when I won,” McIlroy said. “It's a new tournament. It's on a tough golf course, and I need to focus all my energy and thoughts into playing these 18 holes. You can't really let any other thoughts creep into your mind, because it is such a tough golf course.”

For better or worse, it’s a course McIlroy can’t help creating high drama upon.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry