McIlroy starting to expect to win each week

By Randall MellSeptember 10, 2012, 12:46 am

CARMEL, Ind. – This ought to be getting scary for Rory McIlroy’s competition.

The kid, as Tiger Woods calls him, is beginning to make winning look easy.

He’s beginning to feel like winning is “normal,” almost inevitable.

While his overall body of work pales in comparison to Woods' monumental achievements, McIlroy is beginning to win the way Woods did.

With a 5-under-par 67 Sunday at the BMW Championship, McIlroy claimed back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff titles, becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour. With McIlroy's PGA Championship title in August, that’s three victories in his last four starts.

Sunday’s triumph puts McIlroy in a class with Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win six PGA Tour titles by 23.

“He’s pretty awesome, isn’t he?” Robert Garrigus said after making four consecutive birdies on the back nine Sunday and still failing to catch McIlroy. “You make putts like that, and hit it as straight as he does, and have a good short game, it’s kind of what Tiger was doing back in the day.

“Rory is everything you want in a golfer. I don’t know if he’s going to get to quite what Tiger did in his career, but he’s pretty darned close.”

With the victory, McIlroy pretty much locks up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. Even if Woods wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, McIlroy’s major championship win should trump Woods.

McIlroy will head to East Lake in Atlanta for the playoffs’ finale as the FedEx Cup points leader in the re-set for the event. Woods will be second.

A terrific Sunday at Crooked Stick, with so many big names jammed at the top of the leaderboard, ended with McIlroy winning comfortably. Tied for the lead walking on to the 10th green, McIlroy took a three-shot lead to the 18th tee. He bogeyed the last hole and still beat Phil Mickelson (70) and Lee Westwood (69) by two and Woods (68) and Garrigus (69) by three.

McIlroy was asked if his run gives him an appreciation for what Woods did when he was dominating.

“I think I’ve always had an appreciation for what Tiger did over the years, winning seven, eight, nine times in a season,” McIlroy said. “It’s the more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win, and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal. It feels like what you’re supposed to do. I’m sure that’s how he felt when he was on that run and how he still feels.

“I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m getting to that stage, where I’m thinking this is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week.”

That’s the sentiment, the growing self belief, that ought to alarm McIlroy’s competition.

McIlroy is 40 under par in these last two playoff victories. He has posted eight consecutive rounds in the 60s.

His cumulative scoring average in his PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank and BMW victories is 67.5.

“The last four or five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I’ve ever played,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy, 23, isn’t just winning now. He’s winning the biggest events. He’s beating the best and deepest fields. That’s a major and two playoff titles in this run.

Woods is noting McIlroy’s ability to close.

“He’s going out there and is up near the lead and posts a good number,” Woods said. “He’s doing the things he needs to do, and he’s feeling very confident about his game.”

In a year where PGA Tour pros have reminded us just how difficult it is to close with so many final-round collapses, McIlroy is becoming the game’s fiercest closer. Nobody looks more comfortable now on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win. McIlroy showed that after Westwood birdied the 13th hole Sunday to tie McIlroy for the lead.

McIlroy’s sharpening short game helped him seize back control.

At the 14th, McIlroy missed the green but got up and down to save par. Westwood couldn’t do the same.

“I thought that was the pivotal point,” McIlroy said.

That’s where McIlroy finished off Westwood and everyone else. He birdied the 15th and 16th to stretch his lead to three.

“I sort of picked up where I left off in Boston,” McIlroy said. “Just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m confident in my ability, confident with the shots I’m hitting and confident on the greens. It’s a nice run to be on, and I want to try to keep it going for as long as possible.”

There’s intrigue wondering just how long that might be.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."