Spieth-McIlroy rivalry lacks tension, drama

By Rex HoggardAugust 14, 2015, 1:01 am

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Ali vs. Frazier this was not, but then contrived rivalries rarely give way to instant classics.

To be fair, hype is seldom a precursor to history even when the stars are seemingly aligned in perfect order like they were heading into the opening act at the PGA Championship.

In one corner there was the top-ranked challenger fresh off two major championship victories this season and stewing over his near miss last month at St. Andrews. And in the pink trunks ... eh, golf pants ... was the reigning champion poised to prove five weeks of inactivity and an ailing ankle that has progressed through various shades of black and blue recently was nothing for the collective to be concerned with.

Rory McIlroy began Thursday’s opening round at Whistling Straits No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Jordan Spieth can unseat him atop the world this week with an assortment of mathematical scenarios, not to mention become the first player to win the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same season.

For good fun the PGA of America paired the two for the first 36 holes hard on the shores of Lake Michigan alongside Open champion Zach Johnson.

As the new PGA Championship logo suggests, “This is Major,” because “This has the potential to be something cool” makes for a clunky logo.

PGA Championship: Round 1 scores

The potential of something special was thick in the farmland air in the build-up to the year’s final major, except neither player was particularly sharp on Thursday, the byproduct of winds that gusted to 25 mph more so than the proverbial winds of change the media, both social and otherwise, have been predicting.

Jordan made nine consecutive pars to start his day, Rory was more erratic with two birdies and two bogeys; but they both arrived at the turn where they had started the day: at even par.

“I was pretty nervous on the first tee. It was just getting back out there, it was nice to get that opening tee shot out of the way,” McIlroy said. “Anything under par this afternoon was a decent score.”

Both players appeared to take a measured approach on an increasingly difficult golf course, playing their closing nine in 1 under par for matching 71s, which left the top of the marquee five strokes behind Day 1 leader Dustin Johnson.

But this goes well beyond numbers on a scorecard. Good play is a good start and ultimately necessary, but the new dynamic duo seems to also be lacking the required animosity that is such an important part of a good rivalry.

On the 11th green the two shared a good-natured laugh and earlier in the round Spieth regaled McIlroy with tales from the Open Championship, which Jordan didn’t win and Rory didn’t play.

Say what you will about the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson rivalry – which was equally contrived for the most part and ultimately rare – there was always an undertone of acrimony that, although both players dismissed, fueled the dynamic and polarized fans.

There is no such dynamic between McIlroy and Spieth, two infinitely likeable young men who hold a monsoon of respect for each other, and therefore there was no awkward tension, no forced handshakes or cool glares. Instead, we got smiles and laughs and, well, largely uninspired golf.

“I didn't see any difference in his game,” Spieth said when asked about McIlroy’s ailing ankle. “He seems 100 percent ready. Everything seemed to be on point, and I expect him to move up the board.”

On Thursday, instead of Rory vs. Jordan it was the DJ era, as if that type of distinction has the shelf life of the newest tablet or reality TV star.

It explains, at least in part, McIlroy’s apparent frustration on Wednesday with the concept of the cause célèbre.

“We live in such a world that everything's so reactionary and everything happens so quickly that a year ago after I won this tournament it was the Rory era and then Jordan wins the Masters and it's the Jordan era,” McIlroy said. “Eras last about six months these days instead of 20 years.”

By design, golf is defined by the long view. Careers last decades, not days and this was just Thursday, after all.

Time may tell a different tale, but bona fide rivalries occur organically and all the featured pairings and wishing in the golf world can’t manufacture the genuine item.

Rory vs. Jordan may materialize. We may find ourselves captivated by a modern “Duel in the Sun” on a Grand Slam Sunday someday soon, but those moments are special because they are so rare, because we wait years for them to occur.

No, this was no “Showdown in Sheboygan,” at least not on Thursday. But when it comes to rivalries we’re all eternal optimists, and there are still three more days remaining in this major championship season.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.