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.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.