McIlroy overpowers Hoylake, wins third leg of Slam

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2014, 7:05 pm

HOYLAKE, England – Both performances were brilliant, by any measure, but after that broad stroke the comparisons wear thin rather quickly.

Where Tiger Woods picked apart a parched layout at the 2006 Hoylake Open playing small ball, Rory McIlroy blasted over, through and around whatever defenses Royal Liverpool could muster.

Where Tiger dissected Hoylake with a surgeon’s touch eight years ago on his way to his last claret jug, Rory bludgeoned the links, if not the field, into submission to claim his first Open triumph.

It was all the byproduct of a different course and two dramatically different players.

Like he did at 2011 U.S. Open and PGA Championship a year later, McIlroy added to his major legacy. The 25-year-old now stands one green jacket away from the career Grand Slam, one smashed drive at a time.

Much will be made of the Northern Irishman’s week with the putter – he was fourth in the field in total putts (110) – but this masterpiece was powered by that much-maligned Nike driver and a fearless game plan.

He ranked first in driving distance (327 yard average) and 20th in fairways hit for the week, and will remember the bomb that split the fairway at the 16th hole as he clung to a two-stroke lead over Sergio Garcia that set up a two-putt birdie.


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He would only need to par the last two to become the third player in the history of the game – joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus – to win the first three legs of the Grand Slam on or before his 25th birthday.

“I’m glad I gave myself enough of a cushion today because I had a lot of guys coming after me,” said McIlroy, who closed with a 71 to add an unexpected level of intrigue to what was shaping up to be a formality.

The challenge that few expected ultimately came from Garcia, whose colorful history at the Open Championship reaches all the way back to that canary yellow scripting at the ’06 championship.

El Nino set himself up for another painful also-ran finish with a 12-footer for eagle at the par-5 10th hole to get to within two strokes.

And the man who once opined that he was playing against more than the field was once again negotiating with the divine. “Please be good. Please, please, please,” he pleaded as his approach bounced short of the 11th green.

For a time both golf ball and golf gods listened, like when he airmailed his approach into the grandstand right of the 12th green and watched as his ball caromed out of the seats and onto the fringe.

Karma, however, will only give so much.

At the 15th hole the Spaniard found the bunker right of the green and needed two swipes to extricate himself. The golf gods had stopped listening.

“I tried as hard as I could and just got a little too cute (at No. 15),” said Garcia, who closed with a 66 to tie for second place with Rickie Fowler for his fourth top-5 finish in the game’s oldest championship. “When you’re in a position like that you can’t make any mistakes and there was a lot of pressure.”

It was McIlroy who was favored by the golf gods on Sunday.

As he did on Day 3 when things became touch and go, McIlroy manhandled Hoylake’s closing loop. His birdie at the 16th hole moved him to 17 under and the engraver began to warm up. By the time he found the fairway at the last the R-O-R-Y were being cut into the silver chalice.

A two-putt par at the last was all he needed for a two-stroke victory and the title that has always meant the most to him.

“I want to be that person who goes on and wins majors regularly,” McIlroy said. “After this I want to think ahead and win as many events as I can.”

As McIlroy studied the claret jug, amazed that his name had already been etched into history, he scrolled by Woods’ name. Although they took vastly different paths to victory the connection was undeniable – they had arrived at the same destination.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry