McIlroy does the double play

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2016, 12:55 am

ATLANTA – There’s no need for a FedEx Cup task force.

At least that was the feeling as dusk descended on East Lake with both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup hanging in the balance and a playoff that wouldn’t end.

Why would you want it to end?

If the FedEx Cup is sometimes guilty of fading into a post-major championship season lull, all PGA Tour officials needed to spice up the season-ending finale was a new routing for East Lake and an absolute best-case scenario on Sunday.

It was an embarrassment-of-riches deal, with Rory McIlroy, Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell heading back down the newly christened 18th hole for extra innings to decide the Tour Championship winner, FedEx Cup champion and, in all likelihood, the final U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s pick.

With all the subtext of a Russian novel, each would-be champion set out with his own unique baggage.

A twice-bitten FedEx Cup bridesmaid after having been pencil-whipped by the playoff math in 2013 and ’14, McIlory closed with mid-Ryder Cup form a few days early to steal the show with one clutch shot after another.

For Chappell, a three-time runner-up this season, the near misses were there for all to see, and he cut deep regarding his title chances on the eve of the final turn.

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“No one else thinks it's going to happen. The scenario hasn't happened. So no one believes in me. So I got nothing to lose,” Chappell said.

Then there was Moore, the quietly unassuming bulldog who has made a career out of staying under the radar, so much so that they called him “stealth” during his junior golf days.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III came to the party late, inviting Moore to last week’s practice session at Hazeltine National. He declined, citing the need for some R&R after playing eight of nine weeks.

It was so Ryan.

Of course, it was all predicated by Dustin Johnson’s stunning collapse. Two strokes clear of everyone not named Chappell to begin the final round, the American bomber had more bogeys on his opening nine of the final round than he did for his first 27 holes and double bogeyed the 12th on his way to a tie for sixth.

Had DJ’s about-face been slightly less dramatic he could have assured himself the FedEx Cup jackpot, if not the Tour Championship title, thanks to the postseason algorithms.

As a result, midway through Sunday’s sweltering finish, McIlroy found himself two strokes away from winning both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup as Johnson faded, and when the Northern Irishman holed his approach shot for eagle at the 16th hole from 137 yards the home of the finale took on the chaotic glow of Hazeltine South.

“I knew I needed to do something. At that point, I was in the middle of the 16th fairway,” said McIlroy, who closed with rounds of 66-64 to win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup for the first time. “So I was trying to just do something, make something happen. Fortunately, I hole a wedge shot, and I get myself in position to have a chance to win.”

In a nod to the decision to reverse East Lake’s nines, McIlroy finished his round with a birdie, while Moore and Chappell both failed to convert their birdie attempts.

After another trip down the par-5 18th hole in OT, which eliminated Chappell who again failed to make birdie, the event took on a distinctly Ryder Cup feel – with McIlroy and Moore trading knockout blows.

McIlroy missed walk-off attempts from 6 feet on the first extra hole (eagle), 19 feet at the second (birdie) and 57 feet (birdie) at the third before finally putting things away with a 14-footer at the fourth extra hole, but only after Moore converted a par attempt from 16 feet to force the conversion.

Last year, McIlroy turned heads when he suggested the $10 million FedEx Cup payday really didn’t move his needle, but on Sunday after collecting a cool $11.5 million, which included the $1.5 million winner’s check, his story didn’t change.

This was personal.

In 2012, McIlroy won the second and third playoff stops, finished tied for 10th at the finale and watched Brandt Snedeker cash the big check; a year later he began the playoffs first on the FedEx Cup points list, finished second at East Lake and third in the season-ending pool.

This time he created his own equation – win and let the math take care of itself.

“After 2012 and 2014, it definitely feels that little bit sweeter that I've been able to get it done,” said McIlroy, who began this postseason 36th on the points list before moving into the playoff picture with his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

As for that Ryder Cup task force – you know the one that was designed to revitalize America’s chances in the biennial matches and set up much of Sunday’s drama with two of the three leading men, Moore and Chappell, making 11th-hour bids to join Love’s dozen next week in Minnesota – if the final spot in the U.S. locker room isn’t reserved for Moore or Chappell it might be time to go back to the community drawing board.

In fact, considering Sunday’s script with both would-be Ryder Cuppers in the mix well past the end of regulation maybe the PGA of America/Ryder Cup task force should have saved two picks for after East Lake.

There is no shortage of reasons to pick either Moore or Chappell, but if Sunday’s showdown against Europe’s best doesn’t count as earned credit it’s hard to imagine what does matter to Love & Co.

“I didn't earn a spot. I've left it up to other people to make that decision for me,” said Moore, who was paired with McIlroy on Day 4 and matched him for every shot (64) until the 22nd hole. “I kind of thought I had to win this golf tournament, and I didn't. So we'll see what happens from here.”

Instead, Moore was still focused on the chain of events that wrapped up the 2015-16 Tour season.

“It was a blur,” he said.

It was the best.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x