McIlroy's mind on fresh start in 2018

By Rex HoggardAugust 23, 2017, 7:55 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – It’s not officially a lost season for Rory McIlroy, otherwise he’d be knee deep in the renovation of his new south Florida home and daydreaming about 2018.

The FedExCup means too much to the 2016 champion after having finally won the season-long race last year following so many bridesmaid finishes; and he conceded that his decision to finish the playoff season was based entirely on how his body responded after a week off following the PGA Championship.

“I was unsure of what I was going to do and I came pretty close to saying, you know what, I'm going to wait and get myself healthy,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at The Northern Trust. “But I still have a lot of time after these events to do that. I feel like I'm capable of winning. I feel like I'm capable of giving myself a chance to win this thing.”

So the world’s fourth-ranked player will finish the postseason, which may be just three starts unless the Northern Irishman makes a move up the rankings the next few weeks, and he’ll finish his year on the European Tour at the Dunhill Links Championship in October.

And then?

“2018,” he smiled.

It’s been that kind of year for McIlroy, who didn’t play his first PGA Tour event until March and was slowed throughout by a nagging rib injury.

Following the PGA Championship he suggested his year might be over, his patience finally worn thin by the on-again, off-again nature of a rib injury, but the chance to defend his title and finish what has been a challenging season on a high note drew him back for one final push.


The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos

FedExCup standings entering the playoffs


The year hasn’t been a total loss. He finished tied for fourth at The Open, well out of serious contention but enough of a glimmer of hope to keep him interested. Oh, and he was married in April. But otherwise, 2017 has been a year best forgotten thanks to the combination of his ongoing injury, a forced equipment change when Nike Golf got out of the hard-goods business and a complete lack of victories.

“This thing has just been so niggly and it's flared up and then it's calmed down and then it's flared up again,” he said. “I haven't had the time to really let it settle down. I did at the start of the year, but I started to practice a little bit too hard, too early, when I came back from getting married and going on honeymoon, and then it flared up again.”

But if ’17 has been something best forgotten, at least from a professional standpoint, the normally jagged edge such a season would instill in a player was noticeably missing from McIlroy’s voice on Wednesday.

Despite his ’17 scorecard, McIlroy said he begins the playoffs confident in his FedExCup chances, noting that he began last season’s playoff push ranked 36th on the season-long points list. He’s currently 44th on the list.

“I feel like I'm capable of winning. I feel like I'm capable of giving myself a chance to win this thing,” he said.

But beyond the competitive necessities of the next few weeks, the bounce in McIlroy’s step was largely the result of coming up with a plan. After the Dunhill Links in October, he has a battery of tests scheduled that include a full-body scan and even a food intolerance test. He’ll take two weeks off after that before intensifying his focus on next season.

“All we'll be focusing on is getting me in the best possible shape with my body and my game going into 2018. So I'm excited for that,” he said.

That’s mind, body, game and beyond.

Following his news conference on Wednesday at Glen Oaks Club, McIlroy planned to meet with Mark Broadie, the mastermind behind the Tour’s strokes gained statistics and author of “Every Shot Counts.”

“I've become a big believer that they are very important and if you look at strokes gained from when they started to collect the ShotLink data [2003], the only guy that has ever averaged three strokes gained on the field in a year is Tiger [Woods], and he did it eight seasons,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy went on to explain that his best season was in 2012 when he led the Tour with a 2.406 average in the strokes gained-total category.

“That's my goal. My goal is to get to three. I want to be the only other player to get to three strokes gained-total average,” he said. “If I can do that, you'll win five or six times a year, at least.”

To do that, he’ll have to be healthy, which is why he’ll do what so few of the game’s top players do and take an extended break when the playoff dust settles.

His year isn’t over, not just yet, and he can still make lemonade out of what has been a lemon with a postseason run like the one that he rode all the way to last year’s $10 million payday at East Lake; but it wasn’t the thought of a walk-off that filled McIlroy’s voice with optimism.

No, that silver lining was the byproduct of what awaits in 2018.

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."