McIlroy running out of time to find form before Masters

By Ryan LavnerApril 4, 2013, 7:28 pm

SAN ANTONIO – If it’s true that a golfer doesn’t understand the true state of his game until a scorecard is in his hand, then consider Rory McIlroy still evolving – slowly, steadily, and with the clock ticking louder than ever.

Only a few days after vowing to eliminate the “silly mistakes,” they again haunted McIlroy here Thursday, turning a good round in the wind and cold into a what-could-have-been 72 at the Valero Texas Open. He is five shots back.

Glean from it what you wish, but McIlroy has yet to break par in an opening round this season as the year’s first major – one that typically favors a hot start – draws closer.

“Even par isn’t a disaster,” he would say afterward, “and I’m still in a good position going into tomorrow.”

Though not as head-scratching as Houston – where he found the water eight times, including four ball-washers in the final round at Redstone – his opener here at TPC San Antonio was uneven enough to make you wonder whether a breakthrough was imminent.

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Video: McIlroy Texas Open highlights

His swing coach, Michael Bannon, was not on-site this week, an encouraging sign. That suggests the minor changes they have made to McIlroy’s swing – focused primarily on the takeaway – have taken hold, at least to the extent that he no longer requires a second set of eyes.

But on his final hole of the day, after spinning out of a drive that sailed a bit right, McIlroy sought answers. He settled into his stance, checked his alignment and made a swing that perfectly clipped the top of the tee. He walked to the side of the tee box, exasperated, and watched as Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth played away.

As those two ambled down the fairway, McIlroy remained on the tee box, making a few exaggerated downswings to find the proper angle. He consulted with his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, who could only shrug. A bogey would ensue.

It was Fitzgerald who first suggested that McIlroy add San Antonio to his schedule. “If you just play a few more rounds,” the looper told him last Friday, “I think you’re going to be ready.”

But after McIlroy’s 14th competitive round of the season Thursday, it’s clear that rust remains an issue. It continues to manifest itself on the course, spoiling rounds, and the mistakes come with only a wedge in hand.

Through eight holes Thursday he was 2 under and in a share of the lead – words we haven’t been able to type for months.

And then, on the par-5 18th, and only 128 yards away for his third, McIlroy’s wedge shot ballooned into the wind, bounced into the slope short of the green and kicked back into the creek. Bogey.

On the next hole, and only 142 yards away with a pitching wedge, he sailed the green and couldn’t get up-and-down, missing a 5-foot putt.

On the next hole, the 595-yard par-5 second, he shoved his fairway-wood approach so far right that he was forced to hit a provisional. Unfortunately, perhaps, he was able to locate his first ball, thrashed out of the trees, pitched onto the green and made another bogey, his second on the par 5s.

“I felt like I hit a good shot into the 18th, and then it came back into the water,” he said. “Then I think that sort of got to me and that’s why I bogeyed the first and hit a bad shot at the second. … You eliminate those, and it’s not a bad score.”

McIlroy says it’s “definitely more mental mistakes than it is physical,” which perhaps is a promising sign. He’s not blaming the under-construction swing. He’s not blaming the new Nike equipment, or the suffocating pressure of living up to his massive contract, or being the second-ranked player in the world. No, none of that.

But if we’re looking ahead – as we seemingly always are with Rory – then “mental mistakes” are cause for concern, as well.

The year’s first major is next week, and Augusta National requires a butcher’s precision, the product of complete and undivided attention. That’s especially true with the scoring clubs, and around the greens, which can punish those who lapse mentally.

So, McIlroy was asked: How do you clean up the mental mistakes?

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Just stop doing them. It’s hard to explain. I guess it just comes with play, and that’s why I’m here this week, just to play and get some more competitive rounds.”

Barring a significant setback Friday, he’s guaranteed only three more before Augusta. The clock is ticking, louder than ever.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''