McIlroy overhauling his putting with Masters in mind

By Rex HoggardSeptember 1, 2016, 8:37 pm

NORTON, Mass. – When things are going well the game can seem so simple – drives sail for miles into perfectly manicured fairways, approach shots always feed to the hole and every putt feels like it can’t miss.

But when things aren’t quite right, as they largely haven’t been for Rory McIlroy in 2016, the entire world is a mystery.

There are no easy answers, no carefree rounds and, most importantly for the former world No. 1, no apparent end in sight.

For most players, McIlroy’s ’16 campaign would not exactly be a reason to reinvent the wheel. Although it’s been more than a year since the Northern Irishman hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, he won the Irish Open on the European Tour in May, which for Rory is akin to a fifth major, and has more top-10 finishes (six) in the United States than all but a dozen of his play-for-pay frat brothers.

But those kinds of platitudes mean little to a player like McIlroy, who would rather practice his putting on broken glass than go 0-for-4 in the majors. But for the second consecutive year the young lad, and he is still a young lad, came up blank on the Grand Slam tote board.

Things reached a boiling point at the PGA Championship, where he hit the ball better than anyone else at Baltusrol but watched Jimmy Walker’s victory lap from home after missing the cut.

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Without digging too deep into the minutia, the root of what haunts McIlroy is a suddenly uncooperative putter. At Baltusrol he needed 65 putts for two days of work; and while putting experts may debate the specifics, McIlroy has a “left miss” that has been compounded by a setup he has gradually compensated to match that miss.

Last week at The Barclays, McIlroy attempted to change his putting fortunes by teaming with putting guru Phil Kenyon.

“It's a work in progress, like I'm trying to work on a few things and trying to change a few things,” said McIlroy, who finished tied for 31st at Bethpage. “Hopefully it can start to begin to feel a little more natural this week and moving forward.”

Depending on whom you ask, McIlroy’s move to Kenyon is either an act of panic or a sign of progress. Like most things in life, the truth is probably somewhere between those polarized points.

McIlroy admitted on Thursday at TPC Boston that he and Kenyon are overhauling just about everything from his aim to his setup and how he reads greens, which is a cool fall wind when you consider that this is the same man who has won majors by eight strokes.

McIlroy’s ultimate makeover is even more comprehensive when you consider his own timeline for success.

“If I can be really comfortable with my putting going to Augusta next April, that's my timeline, so that's a seven- or eight-month period where I can sort of try to get it right,” he said.

While that recovery may not exactly play well in the European Ryder Cup team room next month at Hazeltine National, it is a sign of McIlroy’s commitment to turning 2016 into something more than a lost season.

There’s also something to be said for McIlroy’s resilience in the face of what has become a familiar swoon.

In 2013, McIlroy also failed to win a Tour event and posted just a single top-10 finish in the majors, yet rebounded in ’14 with two major triumphs at the U.S. Open and The Open and added a World Golf Championship high card.

Jordan Spieth knows something about bouncing back after suffering his own sophomore slump in 2014 when he went winless on Tour. We all know how ’15 played out for the Golden Child.

“Recognizing the longevity of a career, recognizing how many chances you're going to get, and that kind of time and the poor memories, the poor experiences like this year at the Masters, if you keep your head down, keep doing your job, it will end up diminishing because you'll end up getting back to that high point again,” Spieth said. “The more times you prevail, the less you think about what happened in those tough times.”

McIlroy will prevail. He has too much talent and, at 27 years old, too much time not to find the opening at the far side of the tunnel.

He’s also too smart to allow the inevitable ebb of a career define him.

“I'm taking a long-term view of it,” McIlroy said. “As long as I feel like I can see improvements each and every week and feel like I'm on the right path, then I feel like that's the right way to go.”

If that long view doesn’t exactly fit within modern society’s demand for instant satisfaction, know that McIlroy is keenly aware of what it will take to change his competitive fortunes. Just don’t expect a quick fix.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm