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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Report: Augusta may lengthen par-4 fifth hole

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:18 am

One of the more difficult holes at Augusta National Golf Club could be adding some teeth in time for the 2019 Masters.

A recent report from the Augusta Chronicle details preliminary site plans from the Augusta Planning and Development Department. Chief among the proposed changes is a lengthening of the par-4 fifth hole, which currently measures 455 yards.

According to the report, a new tee could be constructed across Old Berckmans Road that could lengthen the hole by 20-30 yards. The change would alleviate congestion between the tee and the nearby fourth green and includes plans to curve the road – which has been closed to public traffic since 2015 – around the new fifth tee.

At last year’s Masters, former club chairman Billy Payne highlighted the area as a possible site for minor changes.

“We are always looking at certain holes, certain improvements to the golf course,” Payne said. “We have a great opportunity now in that we now own the Old Berckmans Road. It gives us the ability, as it touches certain holes, it gives us some way to expand or redesign – not redesign, but lengthen some of those holes, should we choose to do so, and all of them are under review.”

Should the new tee be built, it would mark the first club-enacted course changes since six holes were lengthened in 2006. According to the preliminary plans, construction would start on approximately May 1, following this year’s tournament, and would conclude by early November.

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Thomas: Raucus crowds becoming 'completely unacceptable'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 12:53 am

LOS ANGELES – After spending the first two rounds of the Genesis Open caught amid the traveling circus that accompanies tournament host Tiger Woods anytime he tees it up, Justin Thomas relished his third trip around Riviera with fewer bodies – and voices – in the crowd.

Thomas was part of this week’s marquee early-round grouping, playing the first 36 holes alongside Woods and Rory McIlroy. McIlroy suggested that the chaos of a Woods gallery costs the 42-year-old half a shot per round, and it’s a sentiment that Thomas supported after climbing into the top 10 with a third-round 67.

“Yeah, it was pretty wild this first couple days. It was all right for a little bit today, but there at the end it got a little out of hand,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t. I wish people didn’t think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots and play.”

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Thomas enters the final round four shots behind Bubba Watson as he looks to win for the second time this season. While the crowds at Riviera are a fraction of the size encountered two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, Thomas recalled a couple of unfortunate incidents from that event when fans spoke up and snapped mid-swing pictures while he played the first two rounds alongside Jordan Spieth.

“I don’t know - I guess they just think it’s funny,” Thomas said. “It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting. But when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people’s swings, is just completely unacceptable really.

“We’re out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen. And you would just hate to have, hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

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Durant leads Stricker, MAJ into Chubb Classic Sunday

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 12:50 am

NAPLES, Fla. - Joe Durant birdied five of the last eight holes for a 9-under 63 to match Steve Stricker's Saturday finish and take the second-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Chubb Classic.

Durant rebounded from a three-putt bogey on the par-4 10th with birdies on the next two holes and also birdied Nos. 15-17. He had a 14-under 130 total on TwinEagles' Talon course for a one-stroke lead over Stricker.

''You're going to laugh at me when I tell you this, but it was actually a par I made on my first hole,'' Durant said. ''I pulled my tee shot left, went into a bush and had to take an unplayable, had to drop back and hit an 8-iron about 15 feet and made par and it was kind of like, 'OK, well, maybe the putter is going to work today.'''

Stricker had nine birdies in a bogey-free round.

''I look forward to playing with Steve,'' Durant said. ''He's a class act, one of my buddies out here, and obviously he is playing well and he had a great round today. It will be a shootout tomorrow, no question, but it will be fun.''

The 53-year-old Durant has two PGA Tour Champions victories after winning four times on the PGA Tour.

The 50-year-old Stricker is making his first start of the year on the 50-and-over tour after playing six tournaments last year - a runner-up finish in his debut and three third-places ties but not a victory.

''That's why I'm here, to try to win the golf tournament,'' the 12-time PGA Tour winner said.

He played the last two weeks on the PGA Tour, tying for 31st in the Phoenix Open and tying for 26th at Pebble Beach.

''You can be a little more patient on the big tour because pars sometimes are good scores,'' Stricker said. ''Out here you need to make some birdies and when you see guys running away, that's when you lose your patience, at least I did yesterday.''

Playing alongside John Daly, Stricker birdied three of the last four on the front nine and birdied the last two for a back-nine 31.

''Yesterday, I wasn't very patient and I let a couple slip away that I should have had,'' Stricker said. ''On the par 5s on my second nine yesterday, I walked away from a couple pars, and that was frustrating. So I kind of let that get to me. Today, I was a lot more patient, and I felt it on the greens. When you're patient on the greens, you tend to roll the ball a little bit better, and I rolled a lot of nice putts.''

First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez was two strokes back. He birdied three of the last four in a 68 after opening with a 64.

''Tomorrow is going to be a fight,'' Jimenez said. ''It's going to be nice. As long as you are around the lead, one shot behind, one shot ahead. A lot of golf to come. Just play golf, let everything come.''

Lee Janzen (67) was 11 under, and Kevin Sutherland (68) and Scott McCarron (68) were another stroke back. Daly was 8 under after his second 68. Three-time champion Bernhard Langer had a 70 to get to 5 under.

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Watson takes one-shot lead at Riviera

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 11:49 pm

It's an even-numbered year, so we shouldn't be surprised that Bubba Watson is leading at Riviera. Here's how things shake out going into the final round of the Genesis Open:

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-10), Patrick Cantlay (-9), Cameron Smith (-8), Kevin Na (-8), Tony Finau (-8), Graeme McDowell (-8)

What it means: Watson won the Tour's Los Angeles stop in 2014 and 2016, first shooting 64-64 on the weekend to come from eight shots back and beat Dustin Johnson by two strokes, then edging Jason Kokrak and Adam Scott by a stroke two years later. On Saturday, after a Friday night spent playing in a celebrity basketball game that was part of NBA All-Star Weekend (and getting a shot swatted into the stands by 6-foot-8 Tracy McGrady), he eagled the par-5 first hole, hitting a 200-yard approach to 18 inches, and kept his foot on the gas the rest of the way, adding five birdies against one bogey.

Round of the day: Dustin Johnson moved up 45 spots with a 64. Like Watson, he eagled the first hole, then added four birdies to make the turn in 29. His back nine was an exercise in treading water, with eight pars and a birdie, at the par-5 11th.

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Best of the rest: Watson's 65 was matched by Cameron Smith, who moved up 12 spots to T-3 by making an eagle and four birdies.

Biggest disappointment: At 49, two-time former U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen was just four shots off the lead after 36 holes, but a Saturday 75 dropped him to a tie for 51st. Goosen's round was a matter of slow bleeding, with three bogeys and a birdie on both sides.

Shot of the day: Derek Fathauer eagled the par-4 third hole, holing his approach shot from 120 yards.

Quote of the day: "You've got to know that this golf course is going to make you mess up." - Bubba Watson

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: Although Watson has won twice at Riviera, he hasn't won anywhere since his 2016 victory in L.A. His 2016-17 season finish of 75th in the FedExCup standings was the worst of his career. His closest pursuer, Cantlay, is just one stroke back after closing with a 54-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.