McIlroy in good form, eager to tame TPC Sawgrass

By Ryan LavnerMay 8, 2013, 6:46 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy described TPC Sawgrass this week as “tricky.”

Neither has fared particularly well here.

For all of his glittery accomplishments, McIlroy has yet to solve the mystery that is the Stadium Course, struggling mightily in the event that boasts the strongest field and the biggest purse.

He’s not alone, of course.

Woods’ lone triumph here was his better-than-most moment in 2001. Phil Mickelson has won only once, in ’07. Area residents Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk rarely contend at The Players, but Fred Funk and Tim Clark have won. Madness reigns.

But McIlroy hasn’t even seen Sawgrass on the weekend, owning the kind of record that only a butcher could love: CUT-CUT-CUT. In six career rounds here, he’s yet to break par.

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“This is a tricky golf course,” he said. “It’s a golf course where you look at the field and you’re like anyone can win. It doesn’t really suit any type of player. It’s one of these courses where the player who plays well that week will win.”

Pressed further about his oh-fer, McIlroy explained it thusly:

In 2009 (74-77), he arrived on-site after spending the week in Vegas. “That didn’t help.”

In 2010 (73-72), it was the week after his 21st birthday. “That didn’t help.”

And in 2012 (72-76), well, McIlroy didn’t really have an excuse. “I just didn’t play well,” he said.

Indeed, last year’s Players, remember, was the start of his abbreviated slump, a stretch of four missed cuts in five starts that cost him a chance at two majors. All was forgotten a few months later, of course, when his five-win season was capped by Player of the Year honors on both sides of the pond.

So, by comparison, McIlroy arrives here with a better mindset, a decidedly sharper game, even without a victory to his credit.

After switching equipment at the start of the season, he has shown signs of life with a backdoor top 10 at Doral, a runner-up in San Antonio and a sustained run in Charlotte.

Statistically, he’s sixth in driving distance (301.1 yards), 17th in scoring average (70.19) and fourth in greens in regulation (71.16 percent) – the latter being the surest sign yet that McIlroy’s ball-striking has returned to its previous heights.

Oh, no, that’s not quite right.

This is:

McIlroy – for all of the criticism he has endured for the better part of four months – is ranked No. 1 in the Tour’s all-around statistic. Yes, first.

“He’s starting to show signs of the old Rory coming back, no doubt,” Graeme McDowell said. “That golf swing doesn’t change; it doesn’t need a lot of oiling. He’s just kind of settling down to the new pressures on him that he’s put on himself with all these amazing deals and new equipment and trying to prove new things to new sponsors and new people, and trying to prove things to himself. It seems they’ve all settled down now, and he’s ready to play golf.”

McIlroy’s troubles at Quail Hollow came on the greens, which were so patchy and bumpy that several top-tier players decided to withdraw before the tournament.

The greatest challenge at TPC Sawgrass, however, isn’t the fiery, Bermuda grass greens. No, like virtually every Pete Dye track, it’s visually intimidating off the tee.

Landing areas that appear small but actually are quite generous.

Awkward angles from tee box to fairway.

Tricks and bumps and hollows and “funky spots.”

Said Woods, “If you’re not playing well, you’re going to get exposed.”

But McIlroy, it should be noted, has won his last two starts on Dye designs, Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course and Crooked Stick. At the PGA, he was dominant from Tee to Green and won by eight. At the BMW, he carried his drives over the fairway bunkers positioned some 290-295 yards away, a high-powered luxury much of the field didn’t have.

So what gives at Sawgrass?

“It’s interesting that all the top players have bad records around here,” McDowell said. “I think there is an acceptable level of mistakes and disasters, really, around this golf course. I’m sure guys like Rory and other top players that perhaps don’t love this golf course, they’re only a couple of rounds away from getting back in love with it.”

Perhaps so. But right now, McIlroy and TPC Sawgrass are feuding lovers in need of an intervention.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm