McIlroy completes latest comeback with Open win

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2014, 2:55 pm

HOYLAKE, England – The peaks and valleys have been as predictable as the incoming tide off the Dee Estuary.

In short form, Rory McIlroy’s career has been defined by periods of unmitigated brilliance followed by inexplicable bouts of inconsistent, perhaps even indifferent, play.

He’s won majors by multiple strokes. He’s gone more than 12 months between victories and missed cuts like a journeyman trying to keep his PGA Tour card.

He’s climbed to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking. He’s quietly faded outside the top 10.

He’s been hailed as the game’s next commander-in-chief. He’s failed to contend in nine major starts since boat-racing the field at the 2012 PGA Championship.

He’s looked unbeatable. He’s looked beaten.

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Through four rounds and almost as many seasons at Hoylake last week, it was the former who overpowered Royal Liverpool with an all-to-familiar driving display to move within a green jacket of the career Grand Slam.

On Sunday night in the glow of another signature performance it was all smiles, even when he was asked about those systematic swoons.

“This time last year,” he shrugged sheepishly when asked the moment he hit rock bottom in his most recent slump.

When he missed the cut last July at Muirfield it was his second consecutive 36-hole week and his third in five starts, a run that was highlighted by a pedestrian tie for 41st at the U.S. Open.

This was not the guy who had been given the keys to the golf world following his first two major triumphs, which he won by a combined 16 strokes. This was the other guy.

“I've always said, whenever you play this well, you always wonder how you've played so badly before. And whenever you've play so badly, you always wonder how you play so well,” McIlroy said on the eve of Sunday’s final round. “Golf is a very fickle game.”

Yet while the 25-year-old can easily identify the ebb and flow of his competitive clock he has been unable to sidestep the potential pitfalls.

After winning the 2011 U.S. Open in dominant fashion at Congressional he failed to contend in the next two majors and raised eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic Ocean when he closed with weekend rounds of 74-73 in difficult conditions at Royal St. George’s to tie for 25th place.

“My game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don't enjoy playing in really,” he said. “That's the bottom line. I'd rather play when it's 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.”

Less than eight months later he found himself mired in the first bona fide slump of his professional career midway through the 2012 season – a run that included four missed cuts in five events and another poor showing (T-60) at the Open Championship.

It was a pep talk from his putting coach Dave Stockton Sr. at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational that wrenched him from that abyss and on to his second major triumph, another eight-shot walk-off at the PGA Championship.

But that bookend Grand Slam only begat a second slump, a swoon that extended almost the entire 2013 calendar and included four missed cuts and a season that ended before the Tour Championship.

He began to turn the tide with an 11th-hour victory at the Australian Open in December, rallied to win the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour in May and went wire-to-wire at Hoylake to complete his most recent comeback.

“It’s just one of those things. When we get Rory at a certain level he doesn’t vary too far off the mark,” said McIlroy’s swing coach Michael Bannon. “Last year was a little bit of an aberration and we’re back again.”

It wasn’t always this way. Until slipping into his post-2011 U.S. Open abyss the game had always come easy to the Northern Irishman.

“He pretty much cleaned up as an amateur in Ireland,” said Paul Gray, the former club professional turned general manager at McIlroy’s childhood club in Northern Ireland. “He can be streaky now and possibly the off-course stuff has affected him in recent years.”

There has been plenty of off-course stuff.

Since turning professional McIlroy has endured all number of growing pains, a hectic jump from management firm to management firm, multiple lawsuits and a painfully public split with fiancée Caroline Wozniacki earlier this year.

Many of these missteps were self-inflicted, like his high-profile jump to Nike Golf last year, but the extremes of his young career may end up becoming the status quo.

As unrealistic as the comparisons to Tiger Woods may have been, McIlroy’s career seems more comparable to this generation’s other star.

“The way he plays is pretty aggressively. When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It's one or the other,” Woods said on Sunday at Hoylake. “If you look at his results, he's kind of that way. Very similar to what Phil does. He has his hot weeks and he has his weeks where he's off. And that's just the nature of how he plays the game. It's no right way or wrong way. But it's just the nature of how he plays.”

Throughout all of the highs and lows, however, McIlroy’s most endearing quality has been his inability to delude himself. For a player who demands the best out of his game, when things have gotten sideways he has embraced his shortcomings with an unapologetic zeal.

This lack of any filter is the byproduct of a firm grasp on reality that transcends his 25 years.

After winning the U.S. Open at Congressional he was the first to dismiss any talk of catching Jack Nicklaus – figuring, at the time, the last 17 majors are always the hardest.

Conversely, through the bad times he’s been encouraged by the reality that periodic droughts between major victories every other year or so would eventually add up to an amazingly prolific career and that his game, while not exactly bulletproof, was built for the long haul.

“I never had doubts. All I had to do was look back at some of the great tournaments that I played. The ability was still there. It was just trying to find a way to make it come out again,” McIlroy said on Sunday as he eyed the claret jug. “It's been huge what a difference a year makes.”

What waits over the next 12 months is anyone’s guess, but this much is certain – with McIlroy it is sure to be entertaining.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. 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.

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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.