Bright future ahead for McIlroy

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2012, 12:09 am

DORAL, Fla. – Even more amazing than his historic 16-under total at last year’s U.S. Open, and even more amazing than his resilience following his Masters meltdown, was Rory McIlroy’s unruffled tranquility amid the Congressional chaos as championship Sunday turned to dusk last June.

 At 22 years young the Ulsterman was just minutes removed from his first major championship and, truth be told, the calmest head in the interview room when asked how comparisons to the game’s greatest players impacted him.

“I don't think you can think about it. It's only people saying these things. It's nice that people say that he could be this or he could be that or he could win 20 major championships, but at the end of the day I've won one,” McIlroy reasoned.

In short, even the newly crowned heir apparent knew the last 17 majors are the hardest.

It was with equal aplomb that McIlroy negotiated the lofty ground where he now finds himself on Tuesday at Doral. As the world’s top-ranked player and, perhaps more importantly to some, the most recent player to withstand a Sunday charge from Tiger Woods, McIlroy sidestepped any question about a budding rivalry with the game’s former alpha male with similar ease.

“It’s the media that are building up the rivalry more than anyone else,” said McIlroy, who set the stage for the rivalry buzz with his two-stroke victory over Woods on Sunday at PGA National. “You have a rivalry if you want but at the end of the day your real rival is the golf course.”

Or the history book, depending on one’s perspective.

For more than a decade - with apologies to Phil Mickelson - Woods’ only real rival was the game’s ghosts – benchmarks set by the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Neither McIlroy’s Honda victory nor Woods’ closing 62, his lowest Tour round since the 2009 BMW Championship, have changed that reality.

Nicklaus’ 18 major championships are still the carrots for Woods, but McIlory’s climb to the top of the world’s heap has added an inescapable level of intrigue.

McIlroy has never seen Woods at his best, but he caught a glimpse of what could be in the rearview mirror on Sunday at the Honda Classic. And like all images in the rearview, objects are closer than they appear.

There have been no shortage of rivals for Woods over the years and, with the exception of Mickelson, none had staying power and went the way of the Dodo bird, or Sergio Garcia, pick your own metaphor.

Truth is real rivalries are hard to come by, needing the perfect cocktail of karma and capable contenders.

“I don't think we've had many rivalries in this game. You know, we had kind of Jack and Arnie back in the day, but I think rivalries, there's so many good players nowadays,” said Hunter Mahan, who beat McIlroy in the final match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

“Tiger doesn't have a rival. Just look at the record. I mean, there is none. His rival is Jack Nicklaus. It's hard to put anyone up there right now with him. I understand his last few years haven't been his best and everything that's going on, but that guy, he's had numbers that no one has even thought about reaching.”

McIlroy has the tools – swing, style, media savvy – to make a game of it, but this match will be determined by history, not a harried news cycle. Whether McIlroy-Woods evolves into the head-to-head everyone envisions is years, maybe decades, away.

Yet that reality will do little to stop some from considering the possibilities. Even the young Northern Irishman was not immune to the dynamics of shifting dynasties on Sunday at the Honda Classic.

“To be honest, I was probably thinking to myself, could it not just have been anyone else,” McIlroy said of Woods’ Sunday charge. “It definitely made Sunday a little more difficult or a little more interesting.

“I can’t sit here and lie and say that it didn't feel better to have Tiger post a score and to be able to play solid; it maybe made it feel a little sweeter than if it had of been someone else.”

No, Rory-Tiger is not a rivalry, at least not yet, but there are plenty, even the coolest head in the game, who can’t help but imagine the possibilities.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.