Spieth, McIlroy invite you in to the new era

By Randall MellJune 24, 2015, 9:00 pm

We’ve all got front row seats now to the majors.

In fact, we’re all invited a little closer to all the game’s big events.

That’s what it feels like with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy separating themselves at the top of the game, with Spieth and McIlroy combining to win the last four majors, with McIlroy and Spieth reigning as Nos. 1-2 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

This new era unfolding in the game isn’t just younger. It’s different in another way, too.

Spieth, 21, and McIlroy, 26, are making it feel more accessible, more intimate even, more open to all of us.

Each in his own way has reached out a hand, invited us to share their journeys in meaningful ways. They’ve welcomed us to closer glimpses of how and why they do things. They both do this in news conferences. They’re already two of the best interviews in the game, insightful and even precociously wise. They do it hanging around for scrums after news conferences end, giving us extra time to explore topics, to pick their brains about the way they’re thinking.

There’s a gravitating charm in these two, undeniable but also distinct.

There’s the Texan’s charm in Spieth.

“I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp,” Ben Crenshaw said of the look he saw in Spieth’s eye in a practice round at the Masters this year. “He looks like he wants to gun you down.”

That’s only half the amalgam. There’s also the chivalry ingrained in Spieth, and we mean that in the way C.S. Lewis defined chivalry, in an ability to be tough to the nth degree and gentle to the nth degree. We see that in Spieth’s relationship with his little sister, the way he adores Ellie, a special needs child born with a neurological disorder.

And there are the charms of the Northern Irishman, gifted with the eloquence the Irish are so famous for. When he’s opening up on a topic, McIlroy has the ability to make you feel like you’ve both got a pint of Guinness in front of you, bellied up to the bar at a local pub. He has that disarming, earnest and engaging nature.

Spieth and McIlroy will practically write stories for you in their interviews, revealing opinions, beliefs or insights that change the nature of what you planned to write.

Spieth engages us beyond interviews. It feels as if he’s talking to us when he’s playing, when he’s chastising his golf ball, or bouncing ideas off his caddie, or muttering to himself. The way he corrals and wrestles disappointment over mistakes, it’s more than fun to watch. It’s fun to listen to. He commands a stage in his own engaging way.

When McIlroy is striping it, he walks in a way you want to emulate, with a confident gait and bob of the head, like a fighter pilot on his way to his jet.

Of course, there’s no escaping the shadow the game is emerging from, the once overwhelming but now fading presence of Tiger Woods, whose reign was so towering, so majestic and yet often so cold and forbidding. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Woods. Nobody’s stage presence in the history of the game compares to his. His march through the game’s history books was electric, crackling with unforgettably brilliant moments. His footsteps landed so hard they echoed through time, his fist pumps summoned thunder, his glare and smile mesmerized, but he always made sure he was more than an arm’s length from us. In fact, he often stiff armed us. He was more like Ben Hogan than Arnold Palmer, with an intimidating aura he seemed to like to cultivate. That was Tiger’s style, and it worked for him, though we’re seeing a gentler side of him now.

But that brings us back to Spieth and McIlroy, who are almost Palmer-esque in the way they engage us, in the way they let us in.

Tiger was like the Beatles were, a storm of brilliance, with a breathless, chaotic swarm of energy always chasing after him. Spieth and McIlroy are showing more the brilliance you see in singer songwriters, performers motioning for us to pull our chairs a bit closer to enjoy their music.

Spieth and McIlroy aren’t perfect. Who is? They’ll reveal human frailties. They’ll make mistakes along the way, but there’s something refreshing in the charms they’re bringing to the majors, to the top of the world rankings. Here’s hoping we all continue to enjoy having front row seats.

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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.