English-McIlroy II: A vastly different result

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2014, 12:22 am

MARANA, Ariz. – The first time Harry met Rory, things didn’t go to plan.

It was two years ago next week when young Harris English, some six events into his PGA Tour career, climbed to the first tee at PGA National for a Sunday shootout with golf’s new prince, Rory McIlroy.

Had that Sunday pairing been a match-play ordeal, McIlroy would have rolled over the rookie, 4 and 3. The stroke-play line wasn’t any better with McIlroy – who ascended to No. 1 in the world with his victory at the Honda Classic – carding a 69 to English’s 77 that included three double bogeys and three bogeys.

“I wasn’t mad,” English recalled of his Sunday swoon, “it was more disappointment. I felt like I was ready for the moment, but it seemed like everything was moving so fast and I couldn’t control it.”

By comparison English’s Round 2 match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship against McIlroy on Thursday felt like super slow motion. From the first tee the tall Georgia native looked at ease, almost aloof.

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If every match at the Match Play comes complete with Sunday pressure, as the company line goes at Dove Mountain, it appeared as though that fourth round in 2012 in south Florida was much more than 24 months and a few hundred miles away.

English never trailed at the Match Play, turning in 2 under with a 1-up advantage, and arrived at the 14th tee 2 up when Rory, being Rory, ripped off three consecutive birdies – including a 4-iron to 4 feet at the 16th that English called “unbelievable.”

The two traded pars at Nos. 17 and 18 to force overtime until English, the man who wilted under the glare at PGA National, made a gritty par at the first extra hole to advance and amend that dark Sunday in 2012.

Over the last two calendars English has grown, both competitively and psychologically, winning twice on Tour and establishing himself as a five-tool player.

“I asked him what he learned at the Honda Classic and he said, ‘I have to belong out there. I need to play my game,’” said Mike Taylor, English’s Sea Island, Ga.-based swing coach. “That was his first opportunity to be in the mix and in the last group and he felt like he needed to fit in and now he does.”

Even McIlroy, who has done a fair bit of growing of his own over the last 12 months, acknowledged how far English has come since 2012.

“He’s a couple years more experienced and he’s a very solid player and doesn’t do a lot wrong,” McIlroy said. “Experience counts for an awful lot and he’s used to playing with his peers now as opposed to a couple years ago when he wasn’t that comfortable.”

When it comes to these two, age is relative. Although they are both 24 years old, and two of only three players under 25 to have multiple Tour wins, McIlroy and English are viewed in a vastly different light and justifiably so.

The Ulsterman has won two majors by a combined 16 strokes and after a difficult 2013 appears poised to return to the top of golf’s marquee, while English is still very much an unknown commodity to many fans.

But that has been changing over the last year. At the urging of Jimmy Johnson, Steve Stricker’s caddie, English added veteran looper Brian Smith to his team last season and has continued to refine his game despite his success, the ultimate sign of progress for a young, successful player.

Taylor, who worked with English last week, said his short game and wedge play have greatly improved and, unlike that fateful day at the ’12 Honda Classic, he now has a “go to” shot off the tee when the pressure is on.

“Choke up on the club a little, tee it low and swing left,” smiled English. “It’s a little cut and I didn’t have that at the Honda. Sometimes you don’t have your A-game and you need something.”

It was the shot English used on the first extra hole, which was playing into the wind. Although he narrowly missed the fairway on the 19th hole, English was able to put himself in position to make a relatively easy par while McIlroy pulled his approach into the desert, airmailed the green with his third shot and made the conclusion stress-free for English.

Even compared to Thursday’s faux Sunday pressure at Dove Mountain, English acknowledged how far he has come since the last time he went head to head with McIlroy.

“I feel I belong now. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into back then. I knew I could do it but I didn’t know how to finish it off,” said English, who will play Jim Furyk in Round 3 on Friday. “I’ve learned so much about myself and how to handle certain situations. How to breathe better and eat better, just little things.”

He would never say it himself, but there has been nothing little about English’s climb from PGA National to Dove Mountain.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry