Tiger vs. Rory: A new dynamic

By Randall MellSeptember 13, 2012, 6:33 pm

It may not be a full-fledged rivalry yet, but their head-to-head pairings in the FedEx Cup playoffs and their appearances on Sunday leaderboards over the last two weeks have ratcheted up the intensity of interest in how these two titans match up.

With three titles in his last four starts – a major (PGA Championship) and back-to-back playoff events – Rory McIlroy, 23, just might be on his way to carving out a first in the Tiger Woods era. He just might be evolving as the first player who is consistently favored over Woods, 36, in the game’s biggest events.

Just ask the oddsmakers.

They are the foremost experts at gauging the public’s perception of who is most likely to win a tournament. They don’t base their odds and the financial well being of their multimillion-dollar businesses on who they think will win. They base those odds on their evaluation of the public’s perception of who will win.

Going to the Tour Championship next week, McIlroy is the prohibitive favorite.

Ladbrokes makes McIlroy the 4/1 favorite at East Lake with Woods at 5/1.

They aren’t alone.

William Hill is posting the same odds as Ladbrokes. BoyleSports makes McIlroy an even heavier favorite at 7/2 with Woods 5/1. So does Coral Sports, with McIlroy at 4/1 and Woods at 6/1.

All 13 sports books listed on Betting Zone’s extensive listing of oddsmakers have McIlroy as The TOUR Championship favorite.

Notably, McIlroy will be playing East Lake for the first time as he makes his debut in the Tour Championship.

Woods excels at East Lake. In his last four starts there, he has won once and finished second three times.

The game’s top analysts don’t see the match-up a whole lot different than the bookmakers right now.

NBC’s Roger Maltbie has observed McIlroy and Woods close up the last two weeks as an NBC on-course analyst. He believes McIlroy has an advantage over Woods in their current form.

“I just think right now, as far as the complete package, all the edge has to go to Rory from a confidence standpoint, driving standpoint, putting standpoint,” Maltbie said in an NBC/Golf Channel teleconference. “Right now, he’s on top of all those elements.”

Maltbie believes Woods has more shots, and more trajectories, for more conditions, but he believes McIlroy’s superior driving and ability to hit such towering iron shots into greens gives him the current advantage, as does McIlroy’s hot putter.

“When Tiger is on top of his game, it’s case closed,” Maltbie said. “But right now, he's in a little different situation. There's someone else on his radar that he's looking at and going, `Wow.’ He even admitted last week, he says, `Geez, I'd like to hit it as far as he hits it.’  

“When Tiger dominated the game, he was certainly the longest, most effective player, using power, that we've probably ever known. I just think it's a little different dynamic right now, and I think it's a bit of an uphill climb for Tiger. But with that said, he's certainly capable of regaining the top spot, no question.”

NBC’s Johnny Miller also sees McIlroy with an advantage off the tees and on the greens.

“Tiger is no short hitter, [but] the big advantage is the driver, [McIlroy] is much more accurate than Tiger is off the tee now, with a little more distance,” Miller said. “The worst shots of McIlroy are better than Tiger's (worst shots), and, I can't believe I'm saying this, but he might be out-putting Tiger for four rounds.”

Since McIlroy turned pro late in 2007, he has teed it up in the same PGA Tour or European Tour event as Woods 43 times.

McIlroy is 23-17-3 when measured against how Woods finished in those events.

McIlroy has won five of those common events, Woods has won three.

McIlroy is 14-5-2 when measured against how Woods finished in tournaments they both played the last two seasons.

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee likes where the emergence of McIlroy and the comeback of Woods is taking the game. He sees an exciting change from the last couple years, where parity and rotating No. 1s was the theme.

“There was a sense that no matter what the world rankings said, that, really, Tiger Woods was the de facto No. 1,” Chamblee said. “Well, now, I think if you took a poll, most people would say Rory McIlroy is clearly better than Tiger Woods, which is preposterous. I think we are in the beginning of one of the best eras in the history of the PGA Tour.”

Chamblee believes the emergence of McIlroy against Woods ranks among The Great Triumvirate, The Big Three and Tom Watson’s challenge of Nicklaus as compelling eras.

“Now, you've got a rivalry being born between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, and from a nostalgic aspect, you still have Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh and Ernie Els around,” Chamblee said. “So, golf, I think is as good as we are ever going to see it in our era. It's fantastic.”

Miller is fascinated by the growing friendship of Woods and McIlroy, the connection they’ve made. He finds it telling.

“I think that Tiger is going through an interesting, humbling process the last three or four years,” Miller said. “He's 36, and I think he has realized, maybe, what's important in life, and maybe it doesn't all have to do with 18 holes out there.

“I think he still really wants to do great, and he'll be driven, but I think he was over driven before. I think now he's enjoying relationships. He’s enjoying friendships, and I think, actually, he'll be a happier person. I think he'll still play great golf, but he's starting to enjoy guys that do well and be happy for them.

“I’m not saying he’s Steve Stricker, but there’s a little transition there, and I think it’s a good one. I think he’ll realize as he gets older that there’s a lot more in life than just major championships and what happens on the golf course . . . He’s in a pretty good place right now.”

Competitively, Woods is in a different place. He’s chasing a top player, instead of everyone chasing him.

Maltbie finds that telling.

“There's one component we kind of missed, maybe, in watching Tiger all these years,” Maltbie said. “He is the greatest closer, greatest frontrunner that there has ever been. He operates best when he's looking back, not trying to go forward, so to speak, and trying to pass people.

“I just think he's in a position now, where it is clear, maybe by some of the comments Tiger made himself last week, that maybe there’s a little level of deference to Rory, right at the moment. I liken it very much to the way Ernie Els was, when he saw Tiger. It was like, `Wait a minute. Here is a guy that does stuff that I don’t know that I can do right now.’ I think Tiger is seeing some of that in Rory.”

Chamblee like Maltbie’s analysis of Tiger’s challenge in no longer being the frontrunner.

“You can almost look at the first 15, 16 years of Tiger’s career as one big golf tournament,” Chamblee said. “He was by far and away ahead, by far and away the best. Going forward, as another golf tournament, he is not the best. He is not in front, or now chasing a player.  And now the world doesn't really know if Rory is better than Tiger or Tiger is better than Rory.

“So I think the last part of Tiger's career, this next 10, 15 years, could prove to be just as interesting in a different light. How does Tiger rise to that challenge? He's never had that challenge before.”

Whether Woods is chasing McIlroy, or McIlroy is chasing Woods, the storyline is dominating golf.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.