McIlroy leads by four thanks to another 66

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2014, 7:09 pm

HOYLAKE, England – Rory McIlroy cast aside any talk of those second-round doldrums with a performance at Royal Liverpool that threatened to turn this into another major championship runaway.

As for Tiger Woods, he was fortunate just to make the cut at the British Open.

Any hopes of a duel between the guy who once ruled golf and the player most likely to take his place as the face of the game quickly faded Friday as McIlroy romped to a 6-under 66 that gave him a commanding lead heading to the weekend.

This is starting to look like his first two major victories, both by eight shots, at the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.

''I feel like I just have an inner peace on the golf course,'' McIlroy said. ''I very comfortable in this position. I'm very comfortable doing what I'm doing right now. It's hard to describe. I wish I could get into it more often.''

Woods used to know that feeling.

Not on this day. In his first major of the year after undergoing back surgery, Woods showed his rust by struggling to a 77, his worst round at the British Open since that 81 at stormy Muirfield in 2002. A triple-bogey at the 17th nearly sent him home for the weekend, but a delicate chip over a pot bunker at the 18th set up a 6-foot putt that gave him his only birdie of the day.

It was just enough to keep him around for the weekend.

He's got almost no chance of catching McIlroy, trailing the leader by a whopping 14 shots, though he did bring up Paul Lawrie rallying from 10 shots down on the final day to catch Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.

Of course, that would require McIlroy falling apart the way Van de Velde did.

What are the chances of that?

''I'm pretty far back,'' Woods conceded. ''Hopefully I can play well and give myself a shot going into the back nine on Sunday.''


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Woods has failed to make the cut at a major only three times in his professional career, most recently at the 2011 PGA. He also missed at the 2006 U.S. Open, shortly after the death of his father, and the 2009 British Open.

McIlroy's matching 66s gave him a 36-hole total of 12-under 132 - the same score that Woods posted at the midway point of his last British Open victory in 2006, at this very same course along the Irish Sea.

There were no more questions about the strangest quirk in McIlroy's year - a mysterious run of high scores in the second round, which no one could explain but had admittedly gotten in his head.

The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland wiped those thoughts away by the time he went out for an afternoon round at Hoylake, where the weather again worked in favor of his end of the draw. Playing early on Thursday, McIlroy benefited from pristine conditions. On Friday, the wind howled in the morning but settled after lunchtime, taking away the primary defense of a links course.

Through the first two rounds, McIlroy has made only one bogey - at the first hole Friday. That was long forgotten by the time he closed with three easy-as-can-be birdies over the final four holes, looking as though he barely broke a sweat on a sunny, sticky day.

''It is not a surprise what Rory is doing,'' Woods said. ''He plays pretty aggressively to begin with, and when he is going he can get it going pretty good.''

Dustin Johnson was McIlroy's closest challenger, claiming a spot in Saturday's last group with the best round of the tournament so far, a 65 that left him at 136.

No one else was closer than six shots, though there's plenty of star power in the group at 138 with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, young gun Rickie Fowler and perennial major challenger Sergio Garcia, still seeking the signature win of his career after all these years.

Worried about an approaching storm that is forecast to strike Royal Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, the R&A announced it will have players tee off from both the first and 10th holes for the first time in the history of golf's oldest major.

When Woods made a mess of the 17th hole, it looked as though he might not need another tee time. First, he drove far right of the fairway. After walking 150 yards toward his ball, he was told it was out of bounds. Trudging back up the fairway, he teed off again and sent the ball flying into the high grass that separates the 16th and 17th fairways. After four more shots, he had to put down a 7.

That pushed Woods total score to 3 over, one shot higher than the projected cut line as he headed to the par-5 18th. He did manage to pull things together well enough to make a birdie, but at 146 there will be more than 50 players between him and McIlroy.

''I never made anything,'' Woods said. ''I had myself in good positions to make birdies and I didn't do it.''

That wasn't a problem for McIlroy, who had plenty of birdies on his card and another that wanted to horn in on the action. As McIlroy lined up a birdie putt on the eighth green, a pheasant strolled into his path. He shooed it away with help from his caddie - and rolled the ball right into the cup.

''I haven't run into that before on the golf course,'' McIlroy said. ''I might have had a swan or a duck or a geese or something. Never a pheasant. But it was nice. It didn't put me off.''

Nothing does, it seems.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.