Woods, McIlroy rusty to start new season

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2013, 11:11 am

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – You’ve seen it by now. According to YouTube everyone in the free world has. That DreamWorks-like production that debuted this week featuring world Nos. 1 and 2 Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods trading shots and barbs on an undisclosed practice tee.

“You ever have one of those days when you just can’t miss?” the affable Ulsterman asked in the glossy new Nike Golf advertisement dubbed “No Cup is Safe.”

On Thursday at a windswept Abu Dhabi Golf Club, no scorecard was safe and it was one of those days when life went left where art powered ahead.

At the risk of jumping on the apologist bandwagon a tad early, the scrutiny, if not the sinister desert wind, was always going to be waiting for McIlroy when he walked off the ninth green (his 18th of the day) following a 3-over 75, and into the hungry arms of the media.

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Unfair as it all is, anything short of a course record and touchdown head start over the field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was going to be labeled a failure. It is the unsavory ground where lucrative endorsement deals meet unrealistic expectations and to McIlroy’s credit he fielded every leading question with characteristic calm and charisma.

“He never had to worry about what was going to happen out there (on the golf course),” said one longtime European Tour observer, “it was here (the crowded interview area) where he had to prepare himself. I really feel for him.”

Before we start a campaign to save McIlroy from those who demand instant analysis, let’s put Day 1 in perspective. For those scoring at home, he hit six of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens in regulation and needed 31 putts, leaving him him tied for 89th when he walked off the golf course.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like the card of a world No. 1, consider that his cast mate in that Nike commercial hit one fewer fairway, three fewer greens in regulation and came in with two fewer putts, the approximant margin of error so to speak.

While the gathered scribes wanted to talk about the new driver, and the Ulsterman’s inability to control his golf ball into a crosswind, the final analysis suggests it was a predictable lack of touch on the greens that cost McIlroy on Thursday.

Not that the Northern Irishman had much interest in making excuses.

“When you go out and have some new stuff you can be a little anxious,” he said.

The truth is, the entire round had a preseason feel to it. Sloppy would best describe the play of the game’s top two players – as an aside, whoever had Martin Kaymer as the marquee group’s low ball on Day 1, please proceed to the collection window.

The round included a left-handed punch out by Woods at No. 13, a painful reload for McIlroy at the third after hitting his tee shot into a car park and more shots from the desert than one would imagine even here in the Middle East.

“This is certainly a round where guys can lose their score,” said Woods, who signed for an even-par 72 after three-putting the last from 40 feet.

On a day of firsts, Woods carded his first bogey of the New Year at his fourth hole, McIlroy signed for one of two double bogeys just five holes into the round and hit his shot into the par-5 18th hole so far left they probably found the ball in someone's cocktail.

Little surprise then that the first question he fielded had to do with the 14 new tools he has in the bag following Monday’s much-anticipated announcement that he would be joining the Swoosh team.

“I’m thinking it’s the swing more than the clubs,” he said before admitting, “the first round with new equipment and the scorecard in my hand, it was a good day to learn something.”

So what did the 23-year-old glean from his opening effort? That he was as rusty as a 10-year-old sand wedge and may need some time to feel comfortable with a staff bag full of new implements. Predictable for sure, but hardly preventable.

Let’s don’t forget, it took Woods the better part of a decade to work his way into a full bag of Nike clubs. By comparison, McIlroy is learning on the fly.

The most telling moment in McIlroy’s postmortem came when he confirmed that he felt comfortable cutting his driver up against a right-to-left crosswind but still has some work to do with his draw when the breeze was out of the right.

But that’s nothing new (see Masters, 2011). As Lee Westwood famously pointed out, the Ulsterman can get a little quick with the driver and as a cold morning turned to a breezy afternoon that left shot stung him, like it did at the third hole when his tee shot ricocheted off a palm tree and into the G Lot.

“With my old equipment I was afraid to release (the club) because of the left shot, but that’s not an issue now,” he explained.

Late last year as news spread of McIlroy’s impending jump to Nike many cautioned that such a wholesale change could slow his meteoric rise. On Thursday those fears became reality, but – as is normally the case – McIlroy proved to be the calmest head in the room.

“I’ll go to the range and work on it. It will be fine,” McIlroy said with a signature shrug.

Despite the predictable rush to judgment, for the man behind all those new Nike sticks, Thursday’s opening act was just one of those days.

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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.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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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.’”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

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.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

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.”