Different perceptions as Spieth, McIlroy enter playoffs

By Will GrayAugust 24, 2016, 9:29 pm

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – A little break from the grind can sometimes do wonders for the soul.

When the 2016 schedule was released, it was clear that golf’s top players would be kept busy. Marquee events rolled into WGCs, which bled into majors, and back again. For the game’s elite, the pause button would remain elusive for much of the summer.

But thanks to their respective decisions to skip the Olympics, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have both had the luxury of a three-week hiatus. It gave them a chance to enter the PGA Tour’s postseason with a bit of a clean slate, as they look to improve upon seasons that have similar stats but vastly different perceptions.

For Spieth, the pain came early. While his 2016 season will largely be defined by the 12th hole at the Masters, he rebounded to win his second event of the year at Colonial the next month. The scars of Augusta have had time to heal, and his glass now sits half-full.

“I think it’s been a really good season,” he said. “If I have a season like this, and I’m out here 20 more years, that’s 50-some odd wins, so I’m certainly OK with that.”

His is the confidence of youth, a player not far removed from glory and one who trusts his process. He firmly believes that staying the course will return him to some of the lofty heights of last year.

Given a few weeks to rest and no longer burdened by lingering questions about his Olympic participation, Spieth now has a chance to improve upon a good-not-great year with another coveted prize still looming.

The Barclays: Articles, photos and videos

“I’m very pleased with the way the season’s gone,” he said. “Again, I’m setting some pretty lofty goals for myself for the next six weeks, and it needs to cap off with us retaining that Ryder Cup. That’s very much on my mind.”

Like Spieth, McIlroy has six top-10s on the PGA Tour this season, with one victory to Spieth’s two. But compared to Spieth, McIlroy’s current outlook is far less rosy.

When we last saw the Ulsterman, he was busy putting his way to a missed cut at the PGA Championship, undone on the greens despite leading the field in strokes gained tee-to-green. As a result, McIlroy showed up to The Barclays after his three-week hiatus with a new piece of equipment – a mallet-style Scotty Cameron putter that he’ll put into use in the opening round.

“I think that was inevitable after my performance at Baltusrol,” McIlroy admitted.

The deeply rooted conviction displayed by Spieth isn’t present right now with McIlroy, who appears unmoored and resigned to a lengthy recovery on the greens.

“It’s going to be a process, because there’s a lot of things that I needed to change,” McIlroy said. “I got into some really bad habits, and it will take awhile to iron those fully out and get out of them. But I feel like I’ve made a good start with that.”

There has been work on correcting his putter path to avoid a “two-way miss,” as well as in-depth analysis of the pitfalls of the cross-handed stroke with which he has experimented this year. McIlroy is down to No. 5 in the world rankings, his lowest position since before his 2014 Open Championship triumph, and searching for answers.

“Leaving Baltusrol, obviously I was very disappointed and I needed to think about a few things,” he said. “I needed to assess where my game was and address a few issues.”

It’s the type of soul-searching McIlroy endured in 2013 while adjusting to his new Nike equipment, and it happens to align with the company’s decision to exit the golf equipment business. While McIlroy doesn’t plan to overhaul his bag outside of the putter change, it’s clear that whatever momentum he garnered with his victory this summer at the Irish Open has long since faded.

“I guess for me, I’m trying to judge my year on wins,” he said. “There’s been one of those, which was a very emotional win and something that meant a lot to me. But in the bigger scheme of our overall golf year, it wasn’t a big win. It wasn’t a major, it wasn’t a World Golf Championship.”

Given three weeks to rest and re-assess, Spieth and McIlroy are ready to return to competition this week in New York, the start of a six-week stretch that will culminate with them as opponents at Hazeltine.

For one, it’s an opportunity to improve on a quality campaign. For the other, though, there’s a bit more on the line.

“Look, it hasn’t been the year that I wanted,” McIlroy said. “But I still feel like there’s enough golf left this year to salvage it, and call it somewhat of a successful season.”


Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.