Missing St. Andrews gave Rory unique perspective on golf, life

By Rex HoggardJuly 12, 2016, 3:59 pm

TROON, Scotland – A year ago this week Rory McIlroy was wielding crutches - not clubs - and watched The Open at St. Andrews, which for a Northern Irishman might be the closest thing to major championship nirvana, from the confines of his couch.

It was the most crushing kickabout in the history of golf, a soccer mishap that kept the defending champion from his duties on the Old Course.

“It was one that I'd earmarked since 2010, to possibly have a chance to win a claret jug there,” McIlroy said on Tuesday at Royal Troon. “Of all the courses on The Open road, that's probably my best chance to win, so to miss that last year was very disappointing.”

McIlroy would miss two months nursing his left ankle back to health, a rehab stint that also kept him from playing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and stalling what was shaping up to be another historic year following early victories at the WGC-Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship.

Missing majors is never easy, just ask Tiger Woods. Missing what is unquestionably the most important major at the game’s signature venue was gutting, as they say in these parts.

“I'm determined not to miss anymore for the foreseeable future,” McIlroy declared.

McIlroy isn’t geared to watch from the sidelines. Like most athletes he’s not wired that way, and as the 2015 Open approached he now admits to bracing for a weekend full of mixed emotions.

He’d come close at the Old Course before, finishing tied for third at the Home of Golf in 2010 after a second-round 80. He also has a good grasp on history and understands the distinction between a major champion and a major champion at St. Andrews.

Maybe it was therapy, maybe it was retribution for putting himself in this position with a self-inflicted injury; either way McIlroy settled in to watch last year’s Open with a dollop of dread.

“It was difficult. I actually thought it was going to be more difficult watching it,” he said. “It was at St. Andrews and because I was going in there feeling like I was playing well.”

But along the way his impromptu therapist’s couch turned into a life lesson, watching the wind-delayed tournament unfold with a voyeuristic interest.

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“I enjoyed watching over the weekend, as funny as that sounds,” he said. “I sort of realized that it put things in perspective for me, as well.”

McIlroy didn’t brood over his missed opportunity. He didn’t blame timing and karma for robbing him of a chance to fulfill a lifelong competitive dream of winning an Open at St. Andrews. Instead, he lived his life.

He went to the gym, kept on with the rehabilitation of his ailing ankle and tried not to dwell on his misfortune.

“People were just sort of going and doing their daily routines and doing their thing, and it sort of just put it in perspective to me,” he said. “When you're here it seems like it's everything to you. But you look outside in the bigger, wider world, and it's not the be all and end all.”

It’s a 30,000-foot view that helped ease the sting of missing last year’s Open and possibly the languid pace of his comeback.

After starting 2015 with so much promise, he struggled the rest of the way with just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour before closing the season with a victory at the European Tour’s finale.

A game that has appeared a few bricks shy of solid this season came together with his victory at the Irish Open, which for McIlroy qualifies as a “fifth major,” and he arrives at Royal Troon with a real sense of momentum.

Despite never having played Royal Troon, the enigma of the Open rotation, McIlroy said his game plan is relatively straightforward – avoid the bunkers – and a singular focus.

Since closing the 2014 Grand Slam season with back-to-back victories, McIlroy’s major record has gone decidedly in the wrong direction – finishing fourth, T-9, 17th, T-10 and missing the cut in last five starts.

But with age has come a sense indifference to the urgency of now. Although he admits to not being as bold on the golf course as he once was – either the byproduct of maturity or a game that’s been slightly off in recent years, he couldn’t say for sure – he’s also learned that in golf it’s much better to embrace the long view.

“If someone said at the [2014] PGA Championship, you won't win one of your next five majors you play. I'd be like, yeah, well, sometimes it goes like that and it goes in cycles,” he said. “It's a very long career, so there's plenty of time to try and rack up more major championships.”

Sitting on the couch watching Zach Johnson win the claret jug last July wasn’t easy given the relative importance of the championship, but it did teach McIlroy that there will be other Opens, other chances for glory and other trips to St. Andrews.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

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Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

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Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.