Honda win would be bigger than McIlroy letting on

By Ryan LavnerMarch 2, 2014, 12:30 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The end of Rory McIlroy’s self-proclaimed rebuilding phase appears near, and already there is a rush to declare what a victory here at the Honda Classic would mean.

Validation that he’s working on the right things.   

Redemption for his petulant walk-off a year ago.

Confirmation that he’s the game’s most promising 20-something, that he’s a threat once more to Tiger’s reign atop the world order, that he’s the early favorite for the Masters.

Yeah, sorry, but McIlroy isn’t buying any of that. He views a potential victory as something far more basic.  

“It would be my seventh PGA Tour win,” he shrugged Saturday night. “No bigger, no smaller.”

At least that’s what he’s saying publicly.

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Secretly, his two-shot lead over Russell Henley must feel like a massive opportunity, a chance to silence all of the detractors who claimed he was foolish to overhaul his equipment and change everything that made him a two-time major champion at age 23.

Right now, though, with 18 holes to go, all he’s saying is that another victory, PGA Tour title No. 7, “would be nice.”

“If I happen to win tomorrow, I’ll go home and have a nice night and get up the next morning and go play the Seminole Pro-Member,” he said. “So it’s all good.”

Surprised by his bid to go wire-to-wire here at PGA National? You shouldn’t be. McIlroy has finished in the top 11 in seven of his last eight stroke-play events. He’s playing in the final group in his second consecutive 72-hole event. This was inevitable.  

Earlier this year he squandered chances to win in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – when he admitted to pressing too much down the stretch – but since the 2011 Masters disaster he has closed out his last four 54-hole leads.  

“I’ve been building and building toward getting my game to a level where I feel it should be,” he said, “and I’m pretty much at that point now.”

McIlroy is on the cusp of his first PGA Tour title since September 2012 after a gritty, 1-under 69 Saturday in increasingly difficult conditions at PGA National.

In the final group with Brendon de Jonge, McIlroy birdied two of his first three holes to take a four-shot lead. That advantage proved short-lived, however, after he dropped a shot on No. 6, then made a world-class bogey save on the par-3 seventh that, he said, was “one of the best up-and-downs I’ve ever had.” After double-crossing his 4-iron tee shot, his ball took a hard bounce over the green, bounding into a palmetto bush. He took an unplayable lie, played a brilliant bump-and-run through the rough short of the green, and holed a 10-foot bogey putt that felt like he had gained a shot on the field.  

At 12-under 198, he has a two-shot lead over fellow 24-year-old Henley, who was buoyed by a 150-yard hole-out on the 14th hole and a 50-foot bomb on 17.

If McIlroy says he’s at the end of a rebuilding phase, then Henley is hoping to stop the downward slide.  

Since winning in his first start as a PGA Tour member at the 2013 Sony, the former Georgia standout has recorded only a pair of top-10 finishes, and none since June.

“This game will beat you up if you let it,” he said.

Henley said he was making the game too complicated and trying to change everything that put him in the winner’s circle.

“For me,” he said, “I’ve never really thought too much about everything in my game. I just try to be athletic, and the more I can keep it simple like that, the better I’ll be.”

Sound familiar? McIlroy’s 2013 was anything but simple and uncluttered. He changed virtually every aspect of his life, both personally and professionally.

The 14-club equipment change. The embarrassing walk-off here. The management turmoil. The relationship rumors. Add it all up and it amounted to a lost year for the erstwhile Boy Wonder, whose only victory came in his penultimate start of the year, far from home, at the Australian Open.  

“It’s just about trying to build yourself back up,” he said. “I feel like I’m much more experienced, I’m much wiser sitting here at 24. I’ve experienced a lot, and if it ever happens again, I’ll know how to deal with it better.

“I’m in a phase now where I’m just trying to win golf tournaments again and building toward the bigger tournaments and the majors, and I feel like I’m on a good path.”

His path appears destined for another PGA Tour victory. No bigger and no smaller than that, he says, but a hugely satisfying one nonetheless.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."