Rory knows: It just takes a spark to ignite a run

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2017, 1:39 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Rory McIlroy is capable of playing such mesmerizing, poetic golf that it’s a wonder how his game could ever go sideways.

But the only one who doesn’t seem to panic in those situations is McIlroy.

He knows he’s been here before – several times, in fact.

There was the months-long slump in 2013, brought on by an equipment change and off-course drama.

There was the bizarre stretch in 2014, when his Friday blowups would spoil a good tournament.

Even last year he was in the midst of a 15-month winless drought on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve had little periods like this before in my career,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Royal Birkdale, “and I’ve been able to bounce back from them. I was in worse positions than this. The pieces are all there. It’s just about trying to fit them together.”

The most important piece of all is his health, and that’s still a lingering issue.

McIlroy seemed poised for a monster year at the start of January, but he developed a stress fracture in one of his ribs after too much offseason equipment testing. That cost him eight weeks – prime tune-up time for Augusta – and even though he’s been able to practice more recently, he conceded that he’s still “conscious” of the injury and won’t be 100 percent until the start of 2018, following a prolonged break. Earlier this week, he discussed his concerns with Charles Howell III, who recently returned from a 10-week layoff for a similar injury.

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“It’s a Catch-22,” McIlroy said, “because you don’t want to hit too many balls and aggravate it too much again, but at the same time if you want to compete and win some of the biggest tournaments in the world, you have to put in the time and put in the practice. It can be a little bit difficult to find the right balance.”

And so far, it has eluded him. After a few promising results this spring, he enters The Open having missed the cut in three of his last four starts; the only time he played the weekend, at the Travelers Championship, he rallied for a T-17 after making the cut on the number.

His struggles – again, a relative term for a global superstar with four top-10s in 10 starts this year – prompted Steve Elkington to tweet that McIlroy, 28, was “bored playing golf” and content with his four majors and hefty bank account.

Now a married man, McIlroy was asked Wednesday if he’s still as ambitious now as he was a decade ago, when he began his Open career at Carnoustie.

“I know what I’ve achieved and I know what I can achieve. It only makes you want to do that even more,” he said. “Having that success, you only want to do that more. You want to emulate that and you want to do it again and again and again. I definitely haven’t lost the hunger that I’ve always had.”

So, no, it hasn’t been the year that he planned, but the major season is only half over – under normal circumstances, he’d be a massive favorite at PGA venue Quail Hollow, where he has won twice – and it could still be memorable if the pieces start to fit together.

In May, McIlroy announced a new equipment deal with TaylorMade, and he’s still trying to find the right combination. In recent weeks, he has played Russian roulette with his putters, trying out three different models in four days at the Travelers. On Wednesday, while heading to the range, he saw fellow TaylorMade staffer Jason Day on the practice putting green and chatted for 10 minutes, at one point grabbing his mallet-style model and rapping a few putts. The mental battle is ongoing, as he tries to forget the technical aspects of his stroke and just focus on the target.

His recent form and putting woes have engendered such little confidence among the betting public that he’s listed here at 20-1 – his lowest odds in years.

“Good time to back me,” he said with a smile.

Because McIlroy has a long memory.

Those sky-is-falling periods in 2013, ’15 and ’16? It’s worth remembering that he responded with one of the best years of his career, back-to-back Order of Merit titles, and a $10 million PGA Tour bonus.

None of his peers will be surprised if the pieces soon fit together, if he’s back to playing that mesmerizing, poetic golf again. They’ve seen it happen too many times.

“The one thing about Rory is as soon as you question him, he’ll do something special and turn it all around,” Justin Rose said. “It’s happened a few times in his career where people say he’s in a bit of a slump, and then he’ll win the FedExCup. You never worry about him from that point of view.”

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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.