McIlroy doing things his way, despite criticism

By Rex HoggardMarch 13, 2013, 9:26 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – When did 18 holes of competition with Michael Jordan become a bad thing?

When is the long view and pacing yourself a problem? Better yet, when did Twitter become the proper outlet for constructive criticism, as if solving the world’s problems 140 characters at a time was an option?

Perhaps this is nothing more than a sign of the times, an on-demand issue to fuel a non-stop news cycle. Who would have thought a scheduled member-guest with His Airness would have caused such a digital stir, but then when you’re Rory McIlroy there seems to be no end to the amount of minutia that can be turned into a mountain.

Despite his best competitive week of the year – truth is, Doral was McIlroy’s first full competitive week of 2013 – the world No. 1 was again under the gun following reports he would play this week’s member-guest at The Medalist in South Florida with Jordan and not next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Photo gallery: McIlroy through the years

The Ulsterman ultimately withdrew from the member-guest and was replaced by Keegan Bradley, but the damage had been done. Either way on this McIlroy was clear, he has no plans to add to his pre-Masters schedule (his next start is the Shell Houston Open followed by the year’s first major) despite a particularly difficult start to his season. He said as much after every round last week at Doral.

For McIlroy it’s a simple question of pacing himself and, even at 23 years old, knowing when it is too early to hit the panic button. Yet for the vocal minority that’s not good enough.

Lost in all the armchair analysis and McIlroy’s pedestrian play – four events, one missed cut (Abu Dhabi), a first-round loss (WGC-Match Play), a withdrawal (Honda Classic) and a tie for eighth (WGC-Cadillac Championship) – is a game and a mind that is built for the long term, not a panicky quick fix on the way down Magnolia Lane.

In 2011 McIlroy gave up his PGA Tour membership because of the rigors of playing two tours and the FedEx Cup playoffs. When he returned to the Tour in 2012 he played just three Tour events before The Masters, one fewer than he will play this year.

That he finished second, first and third in his run up to Augusta last year magically mitigated any second guessing. That he went on to win five times around the world and collect his second major by eight strokes is why the Ulsterman deserves the benefit of the doubt now.

Lost in McIlroy’s rocky transition to Nike Golf and his early swoon are the realities of being a two-tour player. In 2012 McIlroy played 24 events around the globe. By comparison, Tiger Woods has averaged 17 Tour starts since turning pro in 1997 and has never played more than 21 events in a single season.

For McIlroy, balancing a transatlantic schedule with the demands of competitive relevancy will always be a high-wire act, at least as long as he remains loyal to his European Tour roots, but know this – the 23 events he played in 2010 on both tours was too much.

McIlroy on fumes is no better than the slightly rusted version.

“It is a tricky thing, especially if you're like Rory and I, and play both tours,” said Luke Donald, who spent 56 weeks atop the Official World Golf Ranking before being unseated by McIlroy last year. “You feel like you spread yourself a little bit thin. When you get off to the slow start that he did, sometimes the best way to get out of a funk like that is just to play. I'm sure he juggled that in his mind a little bit, whether to add another event or something.

“At the same time, you also are planning your schedule around majors, and trying to be ready and rested enough where you don't feel like you've played a ton of golf leading up to the majors.”

It should also be pointed out that McIlroy is not dogmatic when it comes to his schedule. Midway through last season, after missing the cut in four of five events, he added the FedEx St. Jude Classic to his card.

It is sometimes too easy with McIlroy to consider the young man out of his depth atop the world order, but at every turn he’s demonstrated a veteran’s touch when things have not gone to script.

It’s natural to second guess the Ulsterman’s jump to the Swoosh, a big-money move following great success with another brand, but to pretend we know what schedule is best for McIlroy is the acme of foolishness.

It is unfortunate McIlroy had to withdraw from the Medalist member-guest. He would have had a made-for-Twitter sounding board in Jordan on how to handle unsolicited advice – ignore it.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."