#AskLav: Unfortunate timing for McIlroy news

By Ryan LavnerOctober 17, 2013, 12:12 pm

Unfortunate timing, these latest Rory McIlroy reports. Because during the soft opening to the 2013-14 PGA Tour season – or whatever you’re calling it these days: the Silly Season, the Fall Series, or the What-I-Watch-When-A-Boring-Football-Game-Is-On Swing – any semblance of news involving a former world No. 1 immediately goes above the fold.

It’s particularly unfortunate for Rory, of course, because these headlines have little to do with his on-course form (for now) but instead concern his relationship – that he and his longtime girlfriend reportedly booked a one-way ticket to Splitsville – and his ongoing lawsuit with his former management team, including an embarrassing claim that McIlroy signed his deal with Horizon Sports while at a Christmas party and without first seeing a draft of the contract. (Too much eggnog, perhaps?)

The former story is none of our business. The latter could become messy, if it hasn’t already, especially given the expected trial date (October 2014, a month after the 2014 Ryder Cup, where McIlroy and former stablemate Graeme McDowell will likely team up) and the early leaks of how much he is expected to bank from various endorsement deals over the next five years (reportedly at least $129 million).

Yes, these are the perils of being a high-profile athlete, but they come in the wake of arguably his most difficult season yet, from the oft-scrutinized equipment change to the walk-off to the bad swing habits and mediocre results. Add it all up, and it was a forgettable year (with six more starts to go).

As one loyal mailbag reader (and esteemed peer) tweeted to us Wednesday, the real question now has little to do with Wozzilroy. It is this:

So, enough pillow talk. Were tackling that question and more in this weeks #AskLav mailbag:

Rory had 10 top 10s in 16 starts in 2012. That included five worldwide wins, including two in the playoffs. That included a major. He was first in scoring average. He was second in the all-around ranking. Across the pond, he captured the season-long Race to Dubai. It was a career season, at age 23.

And then this year happened. His best chance to win came in San Antonio, when the rest of the worlds elite were back home preparing for the years first major. He didnt win, he had only five top 10s in 16 starts and he failed to reach the Tour Championship but really, his 2013 stats were reasonably similar to what he showed in 2010 and 11 ' when he was brilliant and unremarkable in equal measure. His greatness came in spurts. Would McIlroy have continued his worldwide tear in 2013 had he not changed his equipment and fallen into bad habits? Thats impossible to know, of course, but this much seems certain: You cant summon winning golf when your mind is elsewhere.

Ko, and Im not sure itll be particularly close. At 16, she is already No. 5 in the Rolex Rankings and a two-time LPGA winner. Guan, who turns 15 later this month, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and made the cut at Masters, where he relied not on strong ball-striking but rather sublime putting (no three-jacks on those perilous greens) and sound course management (made no worse than bogey in four rounds). Of course, its reasonable to expect that he will only get bigger and stronger and better, but Ko, less than two years older, is already contending in majors. She possesses world No. 1-caliber talent playing on a tour that isnt nearly as deep.

Yes, but truth to tell we thought the same thing in 2012 and 13 and here we are. Tiger will be the prohibitive favorite at each major he plays next year, and not just because hes the world No. 1 coming off a five-win season. He has won four times at Augusta, though not since 2005. In two U.S. Opens at Pinehurst, he finished T-3 (1999) and solo second (05). He won the last time the Open was held at Royal Liverpool, back in 06. And when the PGA was last contested at Valhalla, in 2000, guess who hoisted the hardware? TW. So, yes, he has plenty of good memories with the 2014 major venues ' and it still guarantees absolutely nothing.

Low blow, though in fairness I, too, thought my Dawgs would lose to Missouri. After all, it was asking a lot to knock off a hungry, undefeated team when youre missing two world-class running backs, three of your four best wide receivers, and the Swiss-cheese defense cant even stop a mailman. Still, UGA has a good shot to win the SEC East and reserve a spot at the championship table with Alabama. Your Tigers, meanwhile, are due for a market correction.

Three of the next four Ryder Cups (through 2020) are at courses that should be familiar to many players and fans ' Gleneagles, Hazeltine and Whistling Straits. On the docket for 2018 is Paris Le Golf National, which has hosted the French Open for a number of years. As for the Presidents Cup, we know only that its heading to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in South Korea in 2015, which effectively neutralized any advantage the Internationals might have enjoyed. I never have been a fan of gussying up a regular Tour stop, like what we saw earlier this month at Muirfield Village. Theres no mystery, no strategy. Thats why the cup at Royal Melbourne was such a treat in 2011, and not just because its one of the worlds best courses. It was unfamiliar to many.

Fortunately for you, this scribe has mini-tour talent on the drums. Owned a drum kit as a kid/teen, and I would Hulk-smash on the cymbals late into the night. Even now, when crippled by writers block, Ill close my eyes and tap on the table for a few minutes, much to the displeasure of those nearby.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.