McIlroy a hero in hometown of Holywood

By Associated PressJune 20, 2011, 12:47 am

HOLYWOOD, Northern Ireland – At the club in Northern Ireland where Rory McIlroy learned his golf as a kid, they went wild from the very first birdie.

Many pints were sunk and songs sung, including an impromptu “Rory, Rory Hallelujah.” Members of the Holywood Golf Club were glued to the television, almost literally: one man kissed the large screen in the clubhouse’s main bar after McIlroy won the U.S. Open by eight shots, his first of what many in Northern Ireland believe will be many major titles for the 22-year-old.

“We’re massively proud,” said club member Tommy Trimble. “It was incredible.”

The club overlooking Belfast Lough bent its rules to let McIlroy in as a member at age 7, because he showed such golfing promise and early prowess. His father, Gerry, also a golfer, started taking McIlroy to the club even before he could walk, putting him in a buggy while he practiced. Gerry got McIlroy plastic clubs when he was a toddler. Photos of McIlroy as a smiling youngster clutching trophies and assorted memorabilia he has autographed hang on the clubhouse walls.

When they gathered there for the last major two months ago, members went home disappointed after McIlroy melted down at the Masters, blowing a four-shot lead on the last day. On Sunday night, they erased those bad memories with cheers, drinks and unrestrained joy. McIlroy’s 12-year-old cousin, Fergus, was among those watching. Youngsters packed into the front row jumped to their feet when McIlroy won.

“He is just unbelievable, I just think this is a stepping stone to what is going to materialize over the next 10 years,” said the club’s pro, Stephen Crooks. “He will be world No. 1, he will win seven major trophies and he will dominate golf.”

“This is huge,” said John Stevenson, the recently retired principal of Sullivan Upper School in Holywood where McIlroy was a star pupil. “Rory is the hero.”

The modest brick and glass clubhouse was packed with people, some of them who remember McIlroy as a kid hitting plastic balls inside, off the walls, and later spending as many hours as he could practicing on the hilly course. There were resounding cheers and clenched fists thrust ecstatically into the air when McIlroy dug his approach shot on No. 1 out of a divot to 6 feet for a birdie on Sunday. McIlroy shot 2-under 69 to close the four days at Congressional at 16-under 268, shattering a U.S. Open scoring record.

In Northern Ireland, there was also huge pride that the British territory with just 1.8 million people and a bloody history of conflict has now produced two U.S. Open champions in succession, after Graeme McDowell won last year. McIlory is also admired here for having stayed grounded even as his golfing career, fame and wealth have hit heights.

“Rory is a fantastic fella, so down to earth yet such a professional,” said one of his friends, Owen Gunning. “He mixes with the young lads and would always say ‘hello’ and always has time for you.”

Stevenson, who watched Sunday’s play on TV at his home, described McIlroy as “a uniting force” for Northern Ireland.

“He crosses all boundaries,” he said. “Everyone in the country is completely behind him.

“He was groomed for stardom. He’s always had the talent. The question mark has always been, particularly in golf, can you handle the pressure? Well, today he proved to himself and to everybody, yup, he can handle the pressure.”

“He’s been imagining himself walking up the 18th fairway of a major championship for a long time, and today’s it’s happened,” he added.

Songs were sung at the club in honor of McIlroy’s father, too. To pay for the ambitions of their only child, McIlroy’s mother worked factory night shifts while his father tended bar and cleaned locker rooms at a Belfast rugby and cricket club and then served in another bar at nights.

“I’m pleased for his family,” Stevenson said. Winning on Sunday “was a like a present to his dad and I’m sure that was in his mind, because his mum and his dad, he owes them so much, and he knows that. Rory would be the first to give them credit, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s one of the great things about him.”

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 9:30 pm

Tiger Woods began the final round of the Tour Championship with a three-shot lead, and he's cruising at East Lake. We're tracking him.

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Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.

Projected FedExCup standings

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“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”