Woods, McIlroy disappoint in Memorial opener

By Rex HoggardMay 30, 2013, 11:57 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – In honor of this week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee we offer the following assessment of Round 1 at the Memorial – U-N-C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R-I-S-T-I-C.

Or how about U-N-F-U-L-F-I-L-L-E-D.

Perhaps even U-N-E-V-E-N-T-F-U-L.

All would sum up the world Nos. 1 and 2’s opening efforts at Muirfield Village, although for vastly different reasons.

For Tiger Woods, his opening 71 was a collection of missed opportunities. He bogeyed his last hole from the middle of the fairway, played the par 5s in even par and answered every birdie he made on the back nine (Nos. 11, 14 and 17) with a bogey (Nos. 12, 15 and 18).

Call it the reverse bounce back.

“It was probably the highest I could have shot,” Woods said. “I didn’t make anything today.”

Rory McIlroy probably felt the say way, although in retrospect his first-round 78 could have been worse given the way the Ulsterman hit the ball. The world No. 2 four-putted his third hole of the day (No. 12), turned in 40 and made just two birdies.

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Video: Highs and low of Tiger's opening 71

Video: McIlroy's 78 at Memorial worst career start

“I don’t really have many explanations for this,” said McIlroy of his highest score on the PGA Tour since a third-round 79 at the Masters. “I felt my game was good. I felt like I was coming in here and hitting the ball well.”

At least Woods knew what he needed to work on. McIlroy’s game seemed dysfunctional to the extreme.

Woods also has history on his side at Muirfield Village. He was four strokes back and tied for 11th after an opening 70 last year at Jack’s place and won by two strokes.

So forgive him if his 1-under card, which left him tied for 27th, didn’t cause a panic. Truth is, if Woods spent Thursday night searching for answers he likely only found a single fix – read the greens better.

“I thought I hit good putts, just misread a couple of putts badly like at (Nos.) 13 and 18,” said Woods, who is vying for his fifth title of 2013.

That simple fix, however, did little to help a bruised ego.

When he was reminded that he was outplayed by his 53-year-old playing partner Fred Couples (2-under 70) Woods playfully shot back, “He kicked my ass.” A moment later another scribe added that he was also clipped by 14-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang (who was 2 under at the time, but bogeyed two of his final three holes), Woods deadpanned: “Great. Have a good one guys.”

And off he went, not to the practice tee or even the putting green which suggested that there was nothing wrong with Woods on Day 1 that dinner and a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix.

It was a different day at Muirfield Village, which normally plays soft and slow as a result of spring rains. But this week the sprawling ballpark is running fast, at least by Memorial standards, as evidenced by Woods’ decision to hit just a single driver on Thursday.

“We don’t play the course like this very often,” said Couples, who will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup team at Muirfield Village this fall. “It was very fast and there were a lot of 3-woods (off the tee).”

McIlroy had no such silver lining.

Just when it appeared the Northern Irishman had rediscover the form that delivered PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in 2012 and his second major title, he signs for a 78 and found himself clear of just six players in the Memorial field.

McIlroy’s putting was poor, his iron play was sloppy and his driving erratic, not a good combination with the U.S. Open and Merion looming a fortnight away.

“The game just isn’t all there at the minute,” said McIlroy, who needed 33 putts on Day 1.

In short, neither of the world’s top two players performed as expected, although Woods’ performance seemed downright serviceable compared to McIlroy’s repeated missteps.

“He didn’t play great, but he still hit good shots,” Couples said of Woods. “He could have easily been 3, 4 under.”

Statistics support Couples’ analysis. Considering the afternoon conditions, which featured wind gusts to 15 mph and greens that grew crusty in the afternoon sun, Woods was solid, hitting 13 of 18 greens in regulation and 11 of 14 fairways.

Put another way, Woods’ quest for his sixth Memorial tilt remains undaunted. That’s U-N-D-A-U-N-T-E-D. While McIlroy’s chances of just playing the weekend appeared downright unrealistic. That’s U-N-R-E-A-L-I-S-T-I-C.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

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A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”

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DeChambeau comes up short: 'Hat’s off to Rory'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 12:48 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid a leaderboard chock full of big names and major winners, the person that came closest to catching Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned out to by Bryson DeChambeau.

While Henrik Stenson faltered and Justin Rose stalled out, it was DeChambeau that gave chase to McIlroy coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 were followed by an eagle out of the rough on No. 16, which brought him to within one shot of the lead.

But as DeChambeau surveyed his birdie putt from the fringe on the penultimate hole, McIlroy put an effective end to the proceedings with a closing birdie of his own to polish off a round of 64. DeChambeau needed a hole-out eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff, and instead made bogey.

That bogey ultimately didn’t have an effect on the final standings, as DeChambeau finished alone in second place at 15 under, three shots behind McIlroy after shooting a 4-under 68.

“I thought 15 under for sure would win today,” DeChambeau said. “Rory obviously played some incredible golf. I don’t know what he did on the last nine, but it was deep. I know that.”

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DeChambeau will collect $961,000 for his performance this week in Orlando, just $47,000 less than he got for winning the John Deere Classic in July. While he would have preferred to take McIlroy’s spot in the winner’s circle, DeChambeau was pleased with his effort in Sunday’s final pairing as he sets his sights on a return to the Masters.

“For him to shoot 64 in the final round, that’s just, hat’s off to him, literally. I can’t do anything about that,” DeChambeau said. “I played some great golf, had some great up-and-downs, made a couple key putts coming down the stretch, and there’s not really much more I can do about it. My hat’s off to Rory, and he played fantastic.”