McIlroy shows human side to professional athletes

By Rex HoggardMay 21, 2014, 3:50 pm

Behind the scripted outfits, the flashy news conferences, the ubiquitous sound bites about a game that is “close” and a swing that is perfectly honed for golf’s grandest stages there is a person.

In every sport you are what your record says you are. But in life you are the sum of your experiences be they pleasant or painful. Where fans and the media see the stoic reality of a scorecard, the truth is often measured in more subtle ways.

A bad day on the course is always more than simply a collection of missed putts and poor swings. On Wednesday in England, Rory McIlroy had a bad day.

Just days after sending out wedding invitations for his marriage to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, the Ulsterman announced the two had agreed to end their relationship after more than two years.

 “There is no right way to end a relationship that has been so important to two people,” McIlroy said in a statement. “The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn't ready for all that marriage entails.”

Three days earlier, McIlroy tweeted a picture of the two at dinner in Monte Carlo, writing: “Nice view for dinner with @CaroWozniacki at Nobu Monte Carlo.”

Wozniacki, a former world No. 1, caddied for him in April in the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National and the power couple had been dubbed “Wozzilroy.”

On Wednesday at Wentworth, site of this week’s BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy was visibly emotional during his news conference, but left no ambiguity as to why he decided to play the European Tour’s flagship event, “I felt it was my duty.”

No player in golf has embraced his plight in the media fishbowl as thoroughly as McIlroy. From his struggles last year following his high-profile jump to Nike Golf to his meltdown at the 2011 Masters, he lives his life as if attached to a Sodium Pentothal drip. No subterfuge, no evasiveness - just honesty, be it playful or painful.

It was the latter at Wentworth.

“It was mutual and we both thought it was for the best for both of us and it’s time to move on,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult. At least when I get inside the ropes I can try to concentrate on the shot at hand.”

We all have bad days – the car won’t start, the kids are late for school, the boss is a bucket head. Very few of us have to endure the trials of life staring down the barrel of a camera and microphone.

With a poise that goes well beyond his 25 years, McIlroy endured a 10-minute Q&A with his signature aplomb. He didn’t like it – we can’t imagine anyone who would – but then he’s been trudging down a path of unfiltered honesty since he arrived on the world stage.

And since delusional behavior doesn’t seem to be in his DNA, it seems likely he knows what comes next. Although he said golf would provide a refuge, it seems more likely it will be only a temporary distraction.

We’ve seen this before.

Although he wasn’t nearly as open about it, in 2009 when Sergio Garcia split with his girlfriend, Greg Norman’s daughter Morgan-Leigh, the impact on his performance was obvious.

El Nino was second in the Official World Golf Ranking when he and Norman split in March ’09. Within 18 months he’d plummeted to 75th in the world.

“Myself, when I am not feeling happy on a golf course and not up for it, that is the way it is,” Garcia said in July ’09. “You can’t do anything about it. I can’t do well. Obviously the break-up with Morgan didn’t help. You get over some things. Others take a little longer.”

Garcia has since played his way back to seventh in the world, and given McIlroy’s play in 2014 – he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 anywhere in the world this season – perhaps he will cling to the onward-and-upward philosophy.

But know this, it will be a tough day at the office when he sets out Thursday at Wentworth. The scorecard will be the objective measurement, but the real test of his ability to move on will come from within.

“I’m no different than anyone else. Everybody has been through breakups and it’s difficult,” McIlroy allowed as he fidgeted uncomfortably Wednesday. “I just want to get my head into golf this week and concentrate on the tournament.”

No, it’s not any different than anyone else who has found themselves on the wrong side of an emotional roller coaster. But in McIlroy’s case he must shoulder through in the public eye.

We often forget star athletes are human and we expect top performances regardless of relationship status or the occasional cosmic curveball. Luckily, McIlroy has never shied away from his humanity.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."