McIlroy up against the boys again this week

By Associated PressMarch 4, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. ' Rory McIlroy is going through his schedule, sounding remarkably unimpressed.
 
Honda Classic this week. Doral next week. A quick trip home. Back to the United States for a round at Augusta National, maybe even a practice round with Tiger Woods in there somewhere.
 
Its a glitzy itinerary for just about any pro golfer. For the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland, its somehow no big deal.
 
I just go out and play golf, talk about what Ive been doing, and everything else takes care of itself, McIlroy said.
 
He makes it all sound simple.
 
Golfs latest Next Big Thing is at PGA National this week, where Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas and defending champion Ernie Els headline the field at the Honda. But theres going to be plenty of eyes on the teen, whos already No. 16 in the world rankings and gave eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy all he wanted last week at Match Play before losing 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals.
 
McIlroy has already won at Dubai, and with a victory this week or at Doral, could become the PGA Tours youngest winner.
 
Hes what I was 10 years ago, Garcia said.
 
As almost always, the South Florida wind is blowing. The greens are even a touch quicker than last year and many are convinced that if anyone matches Els 6-under 274 from a year ago, he will be the guy walking away with $1,008,000 on Sunday.
 
McIlroy says hes looking forward to the daunting challenge of the Jack Nicklaus design.
 
I think especially with the breeze and the last few holes, its going to make for a pretty interesting finish as it always does, McIlroy said. It will be a good week, and one Im looking forward to.
 
There usually seems to be some young player on tour facing lofty expectations, and not everyone, of course, lives up to the billing.
 
But McIlroy is already commanding respect.
 
Definitely one of the superstars of the future, said Robert Allenby, who lives just down the road from PGA National. Hes got a great talent. I think hes going to be fantastic for the tournament this week. Hell be definitely one of the favorites to win for sure, with the way hes been playing.
 
That may be true, although its hard to handicap any tournament that doesnt include Tiger Woods. And at PGA National, a few bad swings can send anyone freefalling down the leaderboard.
 
Slow and steady is the preferred method to win at the Honda, something Els managed last year and Mark Wilson ' whos coming off a win in Mexico last week ' did the year before that.
 
The one-shot-at-a-time motto is something my mom gave me when I was in junior golf and thats what I try to do every week, Wilson said. And on a course like this where par is good, youve just got to hang in there.
 
PGA National is a long par-70, with its lure being the Bears Trap, a stretch of holes 15, 16 and 17 thats a nod to Nicklaus and has par-3s at its beginning and end. Theres some tricky short holes, some par-4s that are reachable only with long irons if the winds blowing strongly, and missing on the wrong side of many greens will just take par out of play.
 
Sounds brutal, but players love the test.
 
The course looks in great shape and looking forward to playing it, said Garcia, whos up to No. 2 in the world and could further close the gap on Woods for the top spot this week. Obviously, its a tough course. We know that. And you have to be very patient throughout the week.
 
Not every 19-year-old could have that patience.
 
By now, though, dealing with situations like this is old hat for McIlroy. He started really turning heads with a sensational opening round at Carnoustie two years ago, and simply doesnt seemed fazed by all the attention on him these days, either.
 
Woods chased Nicklaus as a kid, now-famously taping a list of Nicklaus accomplishments on his bedroom wall growing up. On McIlroys wall, there was a copy of Woods scorecard from the 1997 Masters.
 
Any new kid that comes out is going to be compared to Tiger because he has been the best of the last 10 or 15 years, and he might be the greatest golfer of all time by the time he finishes, McIlroy said. So it doesnt bother me. You have to have someone to compare yourself against. And if I can get anywhere close to him, Ill be very happy.
 

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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”