Lowry shocks good friend McIlroy at Match Play

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2013, 2:37 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Lil Abner’s was a lively place Tuesday night. About 20 Tour types moseyed through the dimly lit steakhouse, a contingent that, interestingly enough, included Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy. They dined together on the eve of their Round 1 tilt at the WGC-Match Play Championship.

If you’re surprised, don’t be. Friends since they were teammates on the Irish amateur squad, they break bread frequently on Tour. Play practice rounds together, too.

And whatever intimidation factor existed in playing the world No. 1 on a grand stage likely disappeared over a full rack of pork ribs.

“It’s only a game of golf; it’s not life or death,” Lowry said Thursday night. “We weren’t going into battle. It was just a normal dinner.”

Over the course of 18 holes, not much separates the No. 1 player in the world and No. 66. A few more shots in the arsenal, maybe. The confidence to know he has done it before, perhaps.

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“But I think it was a bit of a banana skin for him,” Lowry said. “It was always going to be tough for him being the world No. 1 no matter who he plays against, no matter if it’s me or anyone else. Because anyone going out to play against Rory is going out to beat him because he’s the best.”

Indeed, because there are expectations – heavy burdens – placed on the top-ranked player. And Rory McIlroy’s expectations have never been more outsized.

First there was the mega-deal with Nike during the offseason, the one that came with smoke tunnels and holograms and cutesy commercials. (New slogan: No bracket is safe.) Then came the 75-75 missed cut in Abu Dhabi. And now this, a first-round exit here, 1 up to Lowry, meaning that for the third time in the last four years, the No. 1 overall seed has been sent packing after Round 1.

And meaning also that McIlroy has played just three competitive rounds since Nov. 25. The Masters, if you’re counting at home, begins in 49 days.

“Obviously disappointed I didn’t get to play a little more golf this week,” McIlroy said, “but I’ll practice over the weekend.”

This is the first of three consecutive starts for the Northern Irishman, and he arrived in the high desert believing that his game was on track, that he had “turned the corner,” that those highlights of his one-handed follow-throughs were a distant memory.

No doubt, his game looked better at Dove Mountain, in the limited action we saw. His driving off the tee was markedly improved, save for a hook off the 15th tee that led to a critical lost hole. But his iron play was spotty, missing wide right down the stretch.

“Just getting ahead of it,” he explained. “I think it’s more a timing thing than anything else.”

Meanwhile, as McIlroy searched to find a consistent swing, Lowry thrived in the spotlight. Walking down the 11th fairway and all square in the match, the Irishman turned to his caddie Dermot Byrne and said, “He’s not liking this one bit. He’s the one under pressure. I’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s have a go from there.”

Almost on cue, Lowry chipped in from behind the 11th green for birdie to halve the hole. Then he sailed his tee shot on the par-3 12th over the green, the ball nestling against one of the grandstands. Lowry took a free drop, slid his wedge under the ball and lofted it softly on the green. A few tense seconds later, it tumbled into the cup for an improbable birdie. One up.

“The momentum shifted a little bit,” McIlroy said.

“That gave me the momentum to go on and win the match,” Lowry said.

“That wasn’t easy, but I’ve seen him do it so often you half-expect it,” Byrne said.

Perhaps even more impressive, Lowry followed that shot with a fairway wood to 3 feet on the par-5 13th, setting up a conceded eagle – a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch that gave him a 2-up lead he wouldn’t relinquish, even after missing a 4-footer on the very next hole.

The turning point came on the short 15th, when McIlroy hooked his drive into the desert. His ball settled next to a cactus bush, and he needed to play the shot left-handed just to extricate himself. He slapped out into the bunker, then bladed his bunker shot over the green and conceded the hole.

“He did hit a few ropey shots today coming in,” Lowry said. “But I mean, everyone hits bad shots. At the end of the day, he’s only human.”

On Tuesday, two days before he eventually would peg it against McIlroy, and just a few hours before they dined together at Lil Abner’s, Lowry conceded that a victory over the world No. 1 would be “one of the great stories of my career.”

The accomplishment wasn’t but 30 minutes old. McIlroy was still gathering his belongings in the locker room. Byrne was still skimming through messages on his cellphone. But Lowry was asked how it felt now that he’d knocked off his former teammate, his good friend, the top-ranked player in the world.

“It’s definitely a day I’m going to remember,” Lowry said. “I’m sure, after a few weeks or a couple of months, I will slag Rory over it. But at the end of the day, it’s only the first round. I’ve only beaten one player, and I’m here to beat more.”

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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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."