McIlroy leaves another Tour field in his dust

By Rex HoggardMay 18, 2015, 12:07 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – You know how American Pharoah lapped the field on Saturday at the Preakness by seven lengths? Yeah, this was better than that.

While Rory McIlroy wasn’t vying for the second leg of the Triple Crown – or even the fourth leg of the career Grand Slam, that will have to wait until next April – his seven-stroke masterpiece was still an ominous work of art.

With apologies to American Pharoah, the 3-year-old only had to navigate a sloppy Pimlico track for his title; whereas McIlroy had to weather four trips through Quail Hollow Club’s demanding “Green Mile,” which the world No. 1 played in 1 over for the week.

But that doesn’t scratch the surface of McIlroy’s performance at Quail Hollow.

His Saturday 61 was a course record, breaking the old mark he set when he won here in 2010, and he etched 54- and 72-hole scoring records, shattering the latter by six strokes.

It was, by any measure, a signature performance somewhere just south of those eight-stroke romps at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.

Not that the Northern Irishman was exactly caught up in the hyperbole following a closing-round 69 that was, by McIlroy’s own assessment, good enough.


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“Sort of boring, really,” he said of his 11th PGA Tour victory. “In terms of there wasn’t as much excitement on the back nine. I finished with six 3s the last time I won here. Would have been nice to finish with six 3s again.”

It’s always more with this kid.

But what this victory lacked in fireworks it made up for in foreshadowing, with McIlroy comparing his current run, which includes May victories at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and now the Wells Fargo Championship, to his late-summer tear in 2014 when he won bookend majors (Open Championship and PGA Championship) around a World Golf Championships high card (Bridgestone Invitational).

For others, it was more akin to his PGA walk-off in 2012 at Kiawah Island where he overpowered the course and all takers.

“He just has that killer instinct. He wants it so badly,” said David Feherty, the CBS Sports on-course reporter who walked with McIlroy in ’12 at the PGA and on Sunday at Quail Hollow. “There weren’t two of those on Noah’s Ark, I can tell you that much.”

There was a time when some openly asked if McIlroy was mean enough to win events with such cutthroat efficiency, a time when his periodic competitive lapses (see PGA Tour season, 2013) were grounds to question any comparisons to Tiger Woods.

But with each passing milestone those excuses begin looking thinner than Quail Hollow’s parched fairways.

In the last three weeks, McIlroy has played 265 competitive holes on Tour with progressively better results.

Although he said on Sunday it’s his complete game that makes performances like this week possible, what separates him from the pack on these occasions is an utter fearlessness off the tee. For the week, he had 42 drives of 300 yards or more and yet still batted well over .500 (31 of 56) in fairways hit.

There were cracks on Sunday, most notably a three-putt bogey from 56 feet at the second hole which was his first three-putt in 167 holes on Tour, and as he stepped to the 16th tee to begin the “Green Mile” he took a mental note that he was just four strokes clear of Patrick Rodgers at the time.

But a 364-yard drive and tap-in birdie at No. 16 quickly robbed the landscape of whatever drama was remaining.

Beginning the day, McIlroy’s plan was simple – birdie the four par 5s and two “reachable” par 4s. Six birdies, he reasoned, would be hard to beat considering the field had already spotted him a four-stroke advantage heading into the final turn.

But then simple is what an older, wiser McIlroy seems to do best. Like last year at Hoylake, when his trigger words for the week were “process” and “spot.”

This week it was an 11th-hour meeting with putting coach Dave Stockton Sr., who spent all of three minutes working with McIlroy on Wednesday. This time the message was stay down and with the putt through impact.

“Rory likes to keep things simple, like last year at the Open Championship, and that’s what we did,” said Stockton Sr., who reconnected with McIlroy after a 13-month hiatus.

Perhaps most impressive of all, however, is how much the 26-year-old relishes his status atop the pack.

Following his WGC-Match Play victory he acknowledged that he checks the Official World Golf Ranking to see his lead every Monday. High-profile victories in recent weeks by Jordan Spieth (Masters) and Rickie Fowler (The Players) have only intensified McIlroy’s desire to dominate.

“It does push me. I think you see guys that you knew well, guys that are your peers and they’re winning golf tournaments, big golf tournaments, that you want to win,” McIlroy said. “I felt like as the best player in the world I want to go at it every week and just show that.”

Whether by seven lengths or seven strokes, McIlroy’s play this week was more than just a single victory, it’s a sign of what’s becoming the norm for golf’s fiercest racehorse.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.