McIlroy savors 'fun' Augusta trip, eyes serious return

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2015, 7:33 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy can only hope that his next trip to Georgia is just as enjoyable.

Last week he took his father to Augusta National for the first time. He played 45 holes, drank some expensive vino out of a club member’s wine cellar, and even snuck in a gym session with two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

It’s the stuff of bucket-list legend, a two-day itinerary that could bring back Robin Leach out of retirement.

And for Rory, it was just another weekday.

Heck, the biggest revelation during his news conference Wednesday was the fact that there’s a weight room on property at Augusta. McIlroy described the facility as “understated,” with most of the essentials, and … well … you remember where he hit his tee shot on 10 in 2011? Yeah. It’s right around there.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos


The sun hadn’t even considered coming up yet, and McIlroy was going through his usual pre-round workout. Then Tom Brady walked in. And then came Peyton and Eli Manning. Four legends, in shorts and a T-shirt, and it wasn’t long before McIlroy decided to take his 5-foot, 9-inch frame elsewhere and let the big boys go to work.

As for the golf, Team McIlroy lost its opening 36-hole match, but not all was lost. The beauty of Augusta is that a player gets more comfortable with each and every visit, and so McIlroy wasn’t compelled to intensely chart the course. He reacquainted himself with Augusta’s unique greens, played only one ball and shot in the 60s. All good.

Overall, he described the two-day, one-night excursion as “100 percent fun, 0 percent serious,” which is how most trips to Augusta in mid-March should be viewed. It was nice, he said, “to feel relaxed in there for a change and not feel on edge the whole time.”

Besides, he knows that it stands to be markedly different 22 days from now, when he begins the first round of the 79th Masters with a chance to become only the sixth player in history to complete the career Grand Slam.

Now comes the part that is 100 percent serious.

This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational has a decidedly more business-like feel to it. It’s the beginning of a three-week stretch that is designed to ensure that his next trip to Augusta is as much fun as the father-son outing.

The world No. 1 is the odds-on favorite to win next month, but he has yet to break 70 in six rounds in Florida. That has raised more than a few eyebrows about his pre-Augusta form, but it’s worth remembering that he won in Dubai and has finished inside the top 15 in 13 of his last 15 worldwide starts. Even his C-game at Doral was good enough to post a T-9 finish.

For just the third time since 2009, McIlroy is not playing the week before the Masters. He is trying to adopt a similar approach to 2011, when he took off a month before the year’s first major, and it worked pretty well for 63 holes.

But without a final-week tune-up before Augusta, this week’s start at Bay Hill takes on an increased importance.

By no means is it win-or-bust, of course, but McIlroy at least wants to feel something – nerves on the first tee, anxiety while looking at the leaderboard, excitement while getting into the hunt on the back nine Sunday.

“I don’t think there’s any better way to prepare for a tournament than to get into contention (here),” he said.

After Doral, McIlroy had an unexpected visit from swing coach Michael Bannon. For five days they worked one on one, uninterrupted, rewinding footage on the coach’s camera and working out the numbers on TrackMan.

“I’m feeling much better about my game now than I was walking off Doral 10 days ago,” McIlroy said, and now he’s eager to tackle Bay Hill for the first time in competition.

Arnie’s Place should suit his game – it favors the long hitters, especially with wider fairways for this year’s event – and he expects to play well.

With no other trips to Augusta scheduled, McIlroy will spend the next two weeks at home in South Florida. He’ll encourage the superintendent at The Bear’s Club to shave the mounds around the putting surfaces and get the greens running as fast as possible, and he’ll likely play a few times at Seminole to test out his short game on its undulating greens.

Twenty-two days and counting. For Rory, it’s time to be 100 percent serious.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm