Even without his best, Rory leads at Valhalla

By Ryan LavnerAugust 10, 2014, 1:20 am

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One of those big, high, soaring drives, this was not. Rory McIlroy’s tee shot on the 292-yard fourth hole Saturday was yanked low and left, 50 yards from its intended target. The ball careened past unsuspecting gallery members and into Floyds Fork.

McIlroy returned the brand-new 3-wood to his bag, mouth agape and eyes wide, a look that screamed: What the hell was that?

Yep, the prettiest swinger in golf had to get a little dirty in the third round of this PGA Championship, and it had little to do with his sloshing through the muddy walkways at Valhalla.

There was the all-world par save on 4. The gutsy flop shot on 9. The blind pitch on 11. The slippery bunker shot on 14.

All of that in a three-hour span, and yet McIlroy lost the outright lead for only about 10 seconds – or as long as it takes to type “Bernd Wiesberger”.

Three birdies in his last four holes – a finishing kick reminiscent of his third round at Hoylake – sent McIlroy to 13-under 200 and gave him a one-shot lead over the relative unknown from Austria.

Boy Wonder’s first three major titles were formalities. Not this time.

To prevail here, McIlroy will need more of the doggedness that he displayed Saturday, when he arrived with less than his best stuff, withstood challenges from his A-list pursuers and still nosed ahead for a one-shot cushion through 54 holes.

“A 67 that way is more pleasing than a 67 hitting every green and feeling like you’ve missed every putt,” he said.

Appearing on center stage for nearly an entire month can take its toll.

Mentally, a player deals with the constant pressure to perform, the feeling of being targeted, the therapy sessions each night in the press room.

Physically, it’s more than just a sustained run of excellence. Being in this position also throws off the everyday routine, with the agonizing waits until 3 p.m. and late evenings with all of the post-round responsibilities.

The 25-year-old McIlroy shows no signs of mental fatigue, and the proof is in his scorecard. Though not blemish-free, it is without compounded mistakes.

“I’ve got one more day,” he said. “I’ve got one more day to give it everything I have.”

For years, Tiger Woods’ competition would crumble in his presence, an entire generation demoralized by his dominance.


PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos


McIlroy’s intimidation is more visual than physical. Drives that fly 330, short irons that cover the flag, putts that repeatedly tumble into the cup – how can you top that?

With each passing hole, he applies pressure on his opponents – the pressure to go low on a championship course. Mistake-free golf is rare enough. Try playing it on a major Sunday, with everything at stake.  

“It gets tougher for the leaders on the last day usually,” Steve Stricker said. “But we’ve got some guys that are immune to that at times, like Rory.”  

“He’s not going to back up,” Rickie Fowler said. “If someone is going to beat him, they’re going to earn it.”

Just once in his career has McIlroy played prevent defense, and he vowed never to do so again. It was the final round of the 2011 Masters, where a four-shot cushion vanished during a final-round 80.

“I don’t think you can protect a lead,” he said.

He didn’t play defensively Saturday, but there still was no separation.

Forget what the scorecard said: Par in the third round was 69, not 71. After more than an inch of rain, Valhalla’s already generous fairways played even wider, and the greens reacted like a dartboard. Nearly every player was taking it deep, yet McIlroy stood on the 15th tee just 1 under for the day.

That changed in a hurry: He unleashed a 300-yard drive, knocked a 9-iron to 20 feet and buried the putt. Birdie.

At 16, he summoned “two of the best shots I hit all day” – a 337-yard rocket, then a 171-yard 9-iron to 2 feet. Birdie.

And on the par-5 finisher, after a thin 5-iron came up short in the bunker, he splashed out and rimmed in an 8-foot birdie putt to eke ahead of Wiesberger (65).

Seven of his drives traveled over 300 yards (an impressive feat, given the hit-and-stop conditions). Seven approaches were stuffed inside 20 feet. And McIlroy one-putted nine of his last 12 greens, taking only 25 total for the round.

As Martin Kaymer marveled Friday, “There’s nothing wrong with his game.”

“I feel like I’m really confident right now no matter who is on that leaderboard,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I have a pretty good chance of beating them.”

Even if it means getting a little dirty.  

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.