McIlroy not worried about fall from top 10

By Randall MellApril 30, 2014, 9:19 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rory McIlroy didn’t like falling out of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week, but he isn’t overly concerned about it.

That’s because he feels like his game is on the rise.

If he can get his wayward putter working in Thursday’s start of the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy just might be positioned to crack back into the top 10 in a big way.

He arrived at Quail Hollow Golf Club this week with some intangibles working for him.

“One of my favorite stops on Tour for a number of reasons,” McIlroy said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “Obviously, love the golf course, got fond memories.”

In 2010, McIlroy won his first PGA Tour title here in spectacular fashion, closing with a 62.

In four starts at Quail Hollow, McIlroy has that victory, a T-2 after a playoff loss and a T-10 finish.

Though McIlroy is looking for his first PGA Tour victory in 18 months, he likes the way he’s trending, especially the way his ball striking is progressing. Now, he just needs to get his putter going the same way.

“I’ve got into a few faults this year,” McIlroy said.

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Including some putting faults McIlroy believes he is correcting.

During Wednesday’s pro-am, Dave Stockton, the putting guru, joined McIlroy at the 16th hole. McIlroy, however, didn’t ask for Stockton’s help, as he has in the past. In fact, McIlroy showed Stockton what he figured out on his own.

“To be honest, he hasn’t been putting very well this year,” Stockton said. “He showed me what was wrong. I think he really did figure it out on his own, and he looked good to me. I just let him go.”

McIlroy had that swoon last year, a loss of form that appeared to be brought on by an amalgam of issues, including his switch to new equipment with his big Nike contract and including legal issues that followed some management woes.

Toward the second half of last year, McIlroy’s form started turning around.

There was the victory at the Australian Open last December. There was his run into contention at the Honda Classic this March, when he played so well before stumbling to a 74 in the final round and losing in a playoff. There was promising play at the Masters earlier this month, when he tied for eighth despite a disappointing 77 in the second round. It was his best finish at Augusta National.

McIlroy believes his ball striking is back where he wants it, and now he needs his putter to take advantage.

“The back end of last year, and coming into this year, I wanted to focus on what my strengths were, and get those as strong as they could be,” McIlroy said. “You work off your strengths in this game. It’s the foundation of the game. For me, that’s driving the golf ball.

“I drove the golf ball not very well, for the better part of six or seven months last year. Then I started driving well the end of the year, and I've carried that through into this year. I'm happy with that. Ball striking-wise, it’s good.”

McIlroy couldn’t take advantage of some good ball striking at the Masters. He tied for eighth despite finishing nearly last in putting for the week.

“I missed 15 putts inside 8 feet,” McIlroy said.

Overall, McIlroy ranks 141st in strokes gained putting. That helped lead to McIlroy’s slide in the world rankings. This week marks the first time he isn’t among the top 10 in more than three years, since Jan. 16, 2011.

“If you look at it, I've earned more world ranking points this year than the top three players in the world,” McIlroy said. “I've had chances to win, I haven't quite won. 

“I think it's because of the fast start and great year that I had in 2012. All those points are just starting to come off, and that's the reason “It's not nice to drop out, over three years in the top 10. You sort of get comfortable there. Hopefully I can get myself back up, you know, into the sort of territory I have been at the last few years.”

A more cooperative putter should lead there again. McIlroy said he actually discovered his putting problem in his last start, early in his final round of the Masters.

“I started standing a little too close to the ball, so my eye line was the far side of the ball,” McIlroy said. “Basically, I couldn't see a straight line. Where I thought I was aiming, I was aiming about 3 inches left of that. So, I've done a lot of work on the putting mirror in the last couple of weeks, and on the chalk line, training my eyes to see a straight line properly from where my eyes should be.”

Stockton liked what he saw in McIlroy’s stroke.

“I think he’s in a great place,” Stockton said.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.