McIlroy balances professional and personal lives

By Rex HoggardMay 2, 2012, 6:17 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “One (event) in seven (weeks),” smiles Rory McIlroy, correcting a reporter who mistakenly suggested that the Ulsterman had been on a one-week on/six-week off schedule the last month or so.

McIlroy’s Twitter account lists the world No. 2’s location as “everywhere.” Given his status the last few weeks it wouldn’t have been entirely inappropriate to list himself as semi-retired as well.

Consider his odyssey since he clipped Tiger Woods down the stretch at the Honda Classic and tied for 40th at Augusta National: He’s made cameos at the Monte Carlo ATP event, to cheer better half Caroline Wozniacki; attended a rugby match in London where he met Queen Elizabeth; co-starred in a commercial with snowboarding legend Shaun White for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital on Tuesday and, finally, made it back to his day job “chase(ing) a little white ball,” per his Twitter profile.

Amid the hustle and bustle that has become the life of Rory, he ascended to and was ejected from the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking from the comfort of his own couch.

“It’s so volatile,” he said on Wednesday at Quail Hollow, site of this week's Wells Fargo Championship, referring to the ranking but he may as well have been talking about his day planner.

As the 22-year-old goes over his recent itinerary, however, the thought occurs this isn’t a young man avoiding work, as young men do, but instead one planning for a lifetime of it.

Among the more telling comments from McIlroy’s press conference was news he will play about 23 events this year – “And the Ryder Cup,” he said without a hint of presumption – compared to 30 tournaments last year.

“I don’t want to be burned out by the time I’m 30,” he figured. “The most important time for me in the golf season is the start of April and the end of August . . . and for me there is more to life than golf.”

Those who study such things will contend that to be the best in any endeavor takes a single-minded – some would even say selfish – focus on the task at hand and, with a monsoon of respect to alpha males and females in all walks of life, a healthy dollop of indifference – maybe even contempt – for one’s contemporaries.

If that adage holds, McIlroy seems to be wanting on both fronts. Life, however charmed it may be, is to be enjoyed and some have suggested McIlroy may be a little too nice for his own good at times.

But if that’s the case then how does one explain his answer on Wednesday when a scribe asked if he thought there would be a “solid” world No. 1 by the end of the year. “Hope so,” McIlroy smiled, “hope you’re looking at him.”

In this, McIlroy is adept at killing his contemporaries with kindness.

Exhibit A: Two years ago, McIlroy made the cut at Quail Hollow on the number, rallied with a Saturday 66 to start the final turn four back and closed with what many considered a round-of-the-year 62 to beat Phil Mickelson by four strokes.

“Probably the best,” McIlroy said when asked to assess his 10-under-par walk-off. “Under the circumstance, being four back and having to follow a good round on Saturday . . . yeah it was the best.”

Exhibit B: McIlroy opened with rounds of 65-66 last year at Congressional, pulled eight clear on Saturday with a 68 and blew the field away for a historic U.S. Open victory.

In football terms that’s stepping on jugulars. That he did it with a smile only adds to the legend.

“Having a four- or five-shot lead is completely different because there's two ways you can approach it,” McIlroy said, slipping from affable to assassin in the blink of a Northern Irish eye. “You can try and protect your lead, or you can say, okay, I'm four shots ahead, I want to try and go five shots, want to try and go six shots, want to try and go seven.”

It’s that unique combination of calculating competitiveness and talent that prompted Woods’ swing coach Sean Foley to opine: “You could make the argument that he might be Tiger’s Watson.”

That McIlroy’s climb began here at Quail Hollow only serves to magnify that possibility. There have been no shortage of “rivals” throughout the years for Woods, most (see Garcia, Sergio) have not been up to the task; and in truth, Mickelson has been the only player who has been consistent enough to regularly take a seat at that table.

Yet if the stars are aligning as many envision, McIlroy seems to be the player with all the tools, if not the time, to go toe-to-toe with Woods. That he also seems to have the temperament for the long haul should factor into the calculation as well.

When McIlroy bolted Augusta National last month, he left his golf clubs in the United States for two weeks of jet setting, picking up his game in earnest last week in South Florida.

Where some see a lack of focus, McIlroy eyes a long, limitless journey reclaiming the top spot in the world ranking, adding another major tilt to the trophy case and maybe, if the stargazers have it right, that coveted head-to-head with Woods.

Not bad for a semi-retired 22-year-old.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.