Rory is living proof of difference a year can make

By Ryan LavnerOctober 14, 2015, 8:56 pm

NAPA, Calif. – Anyone who has declared this the start of the Jordan Era, or the J-Day Era, or the Big Three (or Four!) forgot one thing:

Everything can change in 52 weeks. 

At this time last year, remember, Spieth had one PGA Tour win and a series of near-misses that left some doubt as to whether he could close out big events. 

At this time last year, Day was the game’s greatest underachiever, a supremely talented but injury-riddled Aussie who had only two wins and mounting scar tissue.

At this time last year, Rickie Fowler, despite posting top-five finishes in all four majors, was still more style than substance, a player whom his peers would soon tab as the most overrated in golf.

And at this time last year … well, they were all looking up to Rory McIlroy.

He was on top of the world, with more than a three-point lead in the rankings. His closest pursuers weren’t Jordan, Jason or Rickie; they were Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and (yes) Sergio Garcia.

It wasn’t a question of whether McIlroy would hold onto the No. 1 spot. It was who, if anyone, could simply challenge him.

The answer, it turns out, was plenty of guys: Seven players accounted for 17 wins while ranked inside the OWGR top 10.

None made a bigger splash than Spieth and Day, who combined for three majors and 10 total wins, the first time since 1973 that multiple players won five or more events in the same season. Fowler also won the year’s most thrilling event, The Players, and added two more worldwide titles. Open: Articles, photos and videos

Left behind, in some sense, was McIlroy, a top-of-the-marquee name now relegated to a supporting role.

“The two guys that are at the top of the rankings are there deservedly,” he said Wednesday at the Open, “because they played fantastically well over the last 12 months.”

By no means has McIlroy been a total slouch this year – he still has three worldwide wins, including a statement victory at the WGC-Match Play and a runaway win at Quail Hollow. But his season was torpedoed by the worst-timed kickabout in golf history.

The ensuing ankle injury, suffered July 4, cost him a St. Andrews Open in the prime of his career, a title defense at Firestone and a realistic shot at the PGA, because he was too rusty to keep pace with Day and Spieth.

Lackluster form in the playoffs did little to suggest that a torrid run was imminent, though he has four more events, including this week’s stop at Silverado, to salvage what has been a disappointing, frustrating and humbling year.

“I would say it was a good season; it wasn’t a great season,” he said. “I feel like I’m at a point in my career where a great season is defined by major championships.

“My major championship performances this year were solid, but not what I wanted them to be. So it was a lost year in the fact that I didn’t win a major and add to that tally.”

It stands to reason, then, that the 2015-16 PGA Tour season, which begins this week, is shaping up to be a massive year for the 26-year-old.

He was challenged like never before.

He lost his No. 1 ranking.

He suffered a careless injury that essentially ruined half of his season.

So if all of that doesn’t motivate Rory, it’s fair to wonder if anything will.

“That gives me motivation not because other guys are doing well, but just because of the position I’m in,” he said. “I want to start winning tournaments again, and seeing them win five times a year and winning majors, it’s something I feel I’ve done before and feel like I can do again.

“So there’s always motivation whether guys are doing well or not. I find myself in a position where I’m trying to get my game back to the level it needs to be.”

McIlroy might be No. 3 in the latest rankings, but he has the best chance to end the year on top simply because he has more opportunities. After the Frys – he saw Silverado for the first time Wednesday – he will tee it up at the Nov. 5-8 WGC-HSBC Champions before closing out his calendar year at the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open and DP World Tour Championship. He currently leads the circuit’s season-long Race to Dubai.

McIlroy reported that he’s happier with his game now than when he left Atlanta, following a T-16 at the Tour Championship. What has kept him out of contention is his putting, which will be a major point of emphasis during the offseason, especially since his short game has been compared unfavorably to wedge wizards like Spieth and Day.  

“From now until forever,” he said, “it’s just trying to keep the strengths as strong as I can and chip away at the weaknesses. I sometimes feel like last season I neglected those weaknesses too much to focus on the strengths.”

That perfect storm – the negligence, the soccer injury and the remarkable play of his peers – was all it took to send McIlroy tumbling off the top rung. It likely won’t take 52 weeks for another dramatic shift.

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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.