McIlroy hoping to find form at Texas Open

By Ryan LavnerApril 3, 2013, 6:53 pm

SAN ANTONIO – Rory McIlroy will emerge from this early-season swoon eventually, whether it’s here in Texas, next week among the azaleas or sometime this summer. Restraining a kid this talented is akin to tying his wrists together with a single knot. Before long, he will escape and wreak havoc.

But there is a sense of urgency now, a hint of desperation, a constant humming that didn’t exist when he was part of the laser show in Abu Dhabi, or when he was bounced from the Match Play, or when he quit after 26 holes at PGA National. The year’s first major is upon us, and it’s the one McIlroy covets most.

It’s also why he’s here, in the relative pre-Masters calm and quiet of TPC San Antonio, in a field that features only 11 players among the top 50 in the world. To peak for Augusta, it sometimes requires an alternate route.

“I just felt like I needed a bit more competitive golf heading into the Masters,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Valero Texas Open. “It should be a good week, and a week where I can try to get my game sharp going into Augusta.”

Texas Open tee times

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Last week, he tied for 45th in Houston, 12 strokes behind the winner, but made the cut in a full-field event for the first time this season. That’s progress, however marginal.

Perhaps more important, he announced that he was deviating from his schedule and adding an event. TPC San Antonio bears little resemblance to Augusta National – save for the sloping and (before early-week rain) speedy greens – but McIlroy signed up at the behest of his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, who told him simply, “If you just play a few more rounds, I think you’re going to be ready.”

His looper was merely the latest observer to offer an opinion on how best for McIlroy to bust out of his months-long slump.

Play more.

Play less.

Stop practicing at muni courses, lest the woes of the average golfer afflict him, too.

Yet here he is, playing the week before a major, on a quirky course, which some contend is a calculated risk. Getting into contention can be taxing, mentally and physical. Confidence can be lost. An injury can occur. But for many, McIlroy included, competitive practice supersedes at-home maintenance. Said Padraig Harrington: “You need to have a (scorecard) in your hand to figure out exactly how things are working in your swing.”

The overarching goal for all good players is to peak for the big events. When McIlroy has peaked at majors, he has shown a penchant for lapping fields, for rewriting history, for stretching the boundaries of what’s possible. In search of the third leg of the career grand slam, McIlroy vows to be ready next week – with his mental approach, with his equipment, with his new standing in the world order, with his under-construction swing. Everything.

Naturally, throughout the course of a season, there will be peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows, good form and poor. It serves as a reminder of how spoiled we were by the greatness of Woods, who once made 142 consecutive cuts over a span of seven years, a record that might never be approached, let alone broken.

In all, Woods has missed only 10 cuts in his career. McIlroy, by way of contrast, already has nine MCs at age 23. The sport’s protagonists are indeed wired differently; they are disparate champions.

“Consistency is highly overrated,” Harrington said. “We all want to be consistent as professional golfers, but generally people that are consistent are mediocre. … You want the exciting peaks, even if that means that there are going to be some frustrating days afterwards. You’re going to be remembered in your career for the high points, not for the mediocre ones.”

For McIlroy, his mediocre play this season unfortunately has coincided with his emergence as a global superstar, the spotlight never brighter. But remember that each of the past three years, he has produced stretches of brilliant golf, only to scuffle for months. He throws haymakers, then retreats.

He won Quail Hollow in 2010 with a closing 62, then didn’t hoist another PGA Tour trophy for more than a year.

He won the U.S. Open by eight strokes, then didn’t finish in the top 25 in each of the next four majors.

He missed four cuts in a five-start stretch in 2012, then won the PGA Championship by a record eight shots before running off three more victories to clinch Player of the Year honors on both sides of the pond.

He throws haymakers, then retreats.

“I don’t care if I miss 10 cuts in a row if I win a major a year,” he said. “I don’t care. What it’s all about is winning the big tournaments.

“When people look back on a person’s career, you don’t say Jack Nicklaus was so consistent. You could say he finished second 19 times in a major. But what you think about is the 18 majors he won. That’s what people remember. People remember the wins. … It’s only a minority that will remember the low points and will get on you for that.”

So as McIlroy tries to emerge from his early-season doldrums, and as we grapple with the concept of an imperfect superstar and world No. 2, the question remains:

When will he land the next haymaker? A kid of his immense talent doesn’t retreat for long, his hands tied only by a single knot.

“All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks,” said Harrington, who then paused to consider the limitless potential.

“Wouldn’t you love to just be patient and wait for those weeks to turn up?”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “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.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''