AskLav: Why the rush to judgment about Rory?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 1, 2012, 3:43 pm

One of several apocalyptic comments this week:

A complete equipment overhaul (to Nike, no less!) … for $200 million … but still … at age 23 … after two majors … is he nuts?

Perhaps he is, which could help explain why six-time major winner Nick Faldo was so adamant – both here and here – that Rory McIlroy was making a grave mistake.

No doubt, The Decision in which Rory may take his talents not to South Beach but rather Beaverton, Ore., will be examined and then re-examined some more, especially if – hold your breath – the Northern Irishman endures another months-long swoon, as he did in summer 2012.

But how can this already be deemed a mistake? Can we really bash a guy who hasn’t even struck a competitive shot with the swooshes?

Based on a few comments this week, you’d have thought Rory ditched Titleist after recently strolling into Golf Galaxy and spotting a shiny new set of irons on the rack. No proper testing. No consultation. No conviction. Nothing.

Rest assured, no equipment decision this significant is made impulsively.

So there’s no need, then, to be so hasty with our judgments.

Here are this week’s mailbag questions:

#AskLav If Rory signs with Nike, how do you think Nike will market him? And how does this affect Tiger's relationship with Nike?

Remember that Duel at Jinsha Lake? Fun, wasn’t it? Just Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger, pals and rivals, chumming around for 18 holes in a made-for-TV (or Internet), pay-per-view event that doled out $3 million in appearance fees. Expect to see a few more of those shindigs in the future. 

Marketing the two players together will be a fascinating case study, too, if only because of their divergent personalities. On the course, Tiger is intense and conditioned to step on his opponent’s neck, while Rory smiles and melodically makes his way around the course and before you know it, well, damn, he won by eight again. How will that dichotomy play in a 30-second spot?

@RyanLavnerGC is there any real possibility of someone other than David Toms as next American Ryder Cup Captain #AskLav

Of course there is a groundswell of support for hard-luck Larry Nelson, who was passed over for the captaincy in the 1990s, and the revered Paul Azinger, who was so successful in 2008, but this appears to be David Toms’ job. He’s 45. He’s a major winner (a PGA!). He has played on three Ryder Cup teams. This is a slam-dunk – or at least an uphill 2-footer with no break.

Everyone wants to know, @RyanLavnerGC What are you going to be for Halloween? #AskLav

Well, I wanted to be Rickie Fowler, but his all-orange outfit apparently is in hot demand this time of year. I wanted to be video-goofball Ben Crane, but needed to walk around the block in less than two hours. I wanted to be Jungle Bird, but couldn’t afford to get that intoxicated and still make it to work the next day.

So, instead, this year I went as the Allstate ‘mayhem’ guy, with the dirty clothing, the disheveled hair and the appetite for destruction. Think it turned out well, right?

Sorry to hear that even Hulk can be slowed by a hurricane. My initial reaction was that Hulk should take his mind off the destruction and do what he always does – smash stuff! – but that seems counterproductive at this point.

D.J. Piehowski@RyanLavnerGC Who are you voting for? I'll just vote for the same person as you. #AskLav

Finally! I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to express my political views. After watching the heated debates and analyzing the media reports and, most importantly, compiling all of my friends’ passionate Twitter and Facebook posts, it’s clear that this year I am voting for … oh, no, sorry, apparently I’ve just reached my word-count limit.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.