McIlroy shoots 67 in practice round at Oak Hill

By Associated PressJune 3, 2013, 10:03 pm

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy caught his first glimpse of the course where he'll defend his PGA Championship title in August, and he liked what he saw of Oak Hill Country Club, with its mature trees at every turn.

''When I think of the PGA Championship, I think of courses like this. This course is timeless,'' McIlroy said on Monday after shooting a 67 in a practice round. ''It's not only long, but it's hard to drive the ball well. You've got some chances out there.

''Then again, you've got a tough finish.''

The 24-year-old Northern Irishman, also the 2011 U.S. Open champion, has had a fairly rough year so far. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, lost in the opening round of the Match Play Championship and walked out of the second round at the Honda Classic in a display of utter frustration.

His game has since begun to slowly turn around, and although he has yet to win this year – and has been replaced at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking by Tiger Woods – McIlroy has four top-10 finishes in nine starts as the U.S. Open looms in two weeks at Merion in Ardmore, Pa.

Like Woods, McIlroy was never a factor in the Memorial over the weekend, but he felt as if he had ironed out some problems after closing with a 72 that left him two shots ahead of Woods at 294. Matt Kuchar won with a 12-under 276.

''I feel good going into the second major of the year. It feels very close. It really does,'' said McIlroy, who tied for 25th at the Masters with a 2-over 290. ''I feel like it's one of these years where I can get on a run. I've had a couple of chances to win this year, and I haven't taken them.''

Repeating as champion and taking home the Wanamaker Trophy is always a stiff challenge at the PGA Championship. Only five players have accomplished the feat.

Tiger Woods did it twice (1999-2000 and 2006-07), joining Denny Shute (1936-37), Leo Diegel (1928-29), Gene Sarazen (1922-23) and Walter Hagen (1924-27).

''I don't know why people have struggled to defend,'' McIlroy said. ''I guess it must be the strength of the field. Come August, it's going to be a factor, too.''

Even though 99 of the top 100 players in the world ranking competed last year at Kiawah Island, McIlroy staged a personal clinic. He validated his record eight-shot victory in the U.S. Open at Congressional by blowing away the field last year at the PGA Championship, also by a record eight shots. That back-nine collapse at the 2011 Masters was beginning to fade as McIlroy became the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Woods was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second major.

''Great players are defined by their major victories,'' McIlroy said. ''Whenever you think about a golf legacy, you think about the majors. I guess I got off to a good start.

''I want to keep that going.''

McIlroy grinned sheepishly during his appearance when the moderator pointed out that he had 1.6 million followers on Twitter, compared to 495,000 for his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Seemingly forgotten now were the questions that had swirled last year that the romance was hurting his game after he missed four cuts in five tournaments.

McIlroy's father, Gerry, and caddie JP Fitzpatrick also made the trip to Oak Hill. During tournament week in August, McIlroy said he planned to rent a house, work out daily at a local gym and figured that either chicken or beef would be on the menu for his champions dinner.

McIlroy conceded before the Masters that the adjustment to new clubs – part of a huge endorsement deal with Nike – had taken some time. But his driving has improved along with his confidence, and he says this year is different than last, no matter what the leaderboard says.

''I'm in a better place,'' he said. ''I wasn't showing many real signs of promise for a couple of months. This year, there are signs. Last year, it was at the point I didn't know if I'd ever play well again.''

With two legs of the career Grand Slam already on his resume, a win this year would put McIlroy in exclusive company. Dating to 1960, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Woods are the only players to win majors in three straight seasons.

''I'm feeling pretty good,'' McIlroy said. ''I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I just need it all to click in.

''All parts of my game are there.''

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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.


Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."

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Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.

Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.

A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.



With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.



Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.



Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.


At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”



The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”