McIlroy in command at Open after Friday 66

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2014, 8:30 pm

HOYLAKE, England – TGIF.

It’s not exactly been Rory McIlroy’s catch phrase of late. Truth be told, the young Northern Irishman has played professional golf’s version of hump day like he is being pursued by Jason Voorhees, the fictional character who terrified a generation in the horror classic “Friday the 13th.”

But on Day 2 at a wind-whipped Open Championship “Rors” may have made history, proving that perhaps one can win a tournament on Friday.

They do tend to go all 72 at these major gatherings and the weekend forecast has even the locals concerned (one English scribe labeled the Saturday forecast as “varying shades of awful.”) which is reason enough for the rest of us to panic, but Friday was always going to be the rubber match for the two-time major champion.

A month of unfortunate Fridays had piled up to become McIlroy’s Achilles heel. Round 2 miscues had become a bad habit, like last week’s 78 at the Scottish Open after an opening 64; or another 78 on Friday at the Memorial Tournament after he cruised out to a first-round 63.

There was a second-round 74 at The Players, a 76 at the Wells Fargo Championship, a 77 at Augusta National and a 74 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It all added up to a 72.89 second-round scoring average which left him ranked 181st on PGA Tour Fridays, just 10 places out of dead last.

His Friday swoons had become so ubiquitous that even after an opening 66 at Hoylake vaulted him to an early lead, it was the first thing the gathered scribes wanted to talk about.

“Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there's not many expectations. You're going out there and you're trying to find a rhythm, and you're just trying to play your way into the round,” said McIlroy in signature honesty.

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“When you go back out on Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on the golf course. So you're going out with some expectations compared to on Thursday you're going out with not many.”

He went on to explain that the challenge on Friday, and beyond, is adjusting his mindset, but when he bounced and bounded through the first green for an early bogey, his first of the week, it smacked of the status quo.

It would be McIlroy’s last miscue of the day.

He calmly birdied the fifth, sixth and eighth holes as the wind that battered the morning wave abated and he turned in 33.

Even when things didn’t go his way, like at the par-5 10th hole when he tugged his second shot into hay left of the green, he managed to navigate the knee-high fescue with a delicate chip for another birdie to move to 9 under and three clear of the field.

McIlroy then did what major champions do on the closing loop, known in these corners as the metaphorical downwind leg. He avoided disaster and picked apart the final nine’s three par 5s to post a 6-under 66 for a 12 under total and four-stroke advantage.

His 6-under card beat his season average on Friday by more than 6 1/2 strokes and the day’s windblown scoring average by a staggering 7 1/2 shots.

So much for the Friday curse. But then all curses end, just ask a Boston Red Sox fan.

“It was just another solid round of golf. I didn’t have that (his Friday blues) in my head at all,” he said. “It’s more to shoot a good round today so I don’t have to be asked about it.”

If that sounds overly simplistic it’s because it is.

Much like he did at Congressional when he won the 2011 U.S. Open, McIlroy overpowered Hoylake hitting 9 of 14 fairways while averaging 358 yards off the tee. The idea that he would somehow fold under the pressure of a mystical curse was, in retrospect, outrageous.

“I wouldn’t have expected anything different from yesterday,” said Jordan Spieth, who was paired with McIlroy for Rounds 1 and 2. “Everybody talked about what he’s done on Fridays, I think that was just random days he was off with his swing.”

McIlroy knows there is still work to be done. There will be no early engraving on the claret jug, not with 36 to play and a Saturday forecast fit for a duck. There is still room for error, remember this is the same player who was four clear through 54 holes at the 2011 Masters and finished tied for 15th place. It’s the same complicated competitor who went 63-80-69-68 in 2010 at St. Andrews.

But on Thursday a weary Adam Scott offered some cautionary commentary, “I don’t want (McIlroy) running away with it. We’ve seen him do it. He wins majors by eight (shots).”

The world No. 1’s words left a foreboding feel after Friday’s change of fortune for the frontrunner. Consider that at the 25-year-old’s first major walk-off (2011 U.S. Open) he was a half dozen clear at intermission.

Much remains to be decided, but McIlroy may have climbed his most difficult mountain on Friday.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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