McIlroy tweets 'shut up' to Golf Channel's Townsend after criticism

By Associated PressJuly 28, 2011, 8:26 pm

KILLARNEY, Ireland – Rory McIlroy showed his temperamental side after blowing an early lead Thursday at the Irish Open, double-bogeying the 18th hole – then insulting a critical commentator and telling him to shut up.

Fresh from his 1 under opening round of 70, McIlroy fired off a riposte to the Twitter account of American analyst and former pro Jay Townsend.

“Shut up. You’re a commentator and a failed golfer. Your opinion means nothing!” wrote McIlroy, the 22-year-old prodigy from Northern Ireland.

McIlroy’s up-and-down performance was the talking point on a day that promised to shine a spotlight on the island’s incredible recent run of golfing success.

Joining McIlroy at Killarney, a resort town backed by stunning views of Ireland’s largest mountain chain, were British Open winner Darren Clarke, last year’s U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.

Outshining the local stars was Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who hit a career-best 63 to lead by two shots at 8 under.

Singh hit an eagle and six birdies, the highlight a 20-foot chip uphill into the cup on the 12th.

“I think it’s one of the best putting rounds I’ve ever had. I nearly holed everything today,” said Singh, 39, who is making a comeback after serious back problems last year.

McIlroy, who fizzled at the British Open two weeks ago, looked early on like the man to beat, making birdies on four of the first 10 holes. Then the accuracy of his drives deserted him, leading to a bogey on the 12th.

On the 14th, he struck a nearly impossible shot, hooking a ball around a large oak and on to the green to salvage par, and his magic touch appeared restored. McIlroy estimated it hooked 50 yards within a 125-yard distance.

“To be honest, I didn’t really think I could get it on the green. I just wanted to get it up short. I caught it really nicely. It was definitely one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” McIlroy said.

But his gambling ways produced two mistakes on the 18th. First he drove into a bunker, then his attempt to find the green sailed far left into a pond.

Townsend, a former European Tour player providing live coverage for Irish broadcasters RTE, started blasting McIlroy’s approach even before the ball hit the water.

“That’s why you don’t hit it in the bunker. Watch this,” he said, pausing for the splash.

Noting that other commentators had been describing McIlroy’s play as refreshingly loose, Townsend said: “He plays silly, several times already today.”

McIlroy came off the green head bowed and looking unhappy.

“To finish with a 6 at the last was tough to take,” he said.

As he headed to the practice range, McIlroy was told of Townsend’s criticisms, both on RTE and on his own Twitter account. Townsend, on the social media site, had just blamed McIlroy’s caddie since 2008, J.P. Fitzgerald, for overseeing “some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under 10’s boys golf competition.”

McIlroy fired back by Twitter. Townsend replied that he stood by his criticisms, McIlroy that he stood by his caddie.

Later, McIlroy said he’d insulted Townsend in defense of his caddie, not himself.

Referring to Townsend, McIlroy said: “He’s been having a go at J.P. every now and again. This was the first time I’ve responded. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” McIlroy said. “Now I’ve blocked him on Twitter, so I won’t be reading anything more.”

Several commentators and former players called McIlroy’s reaction immature and unwarranted, in part because the criticism was accurate.

Former European Tour pro John McHenry said analysts should say “when a guy is making a (mess) of his round.”

He said McIlroy’s back nine featured “very, very loose shots, some of which were unforced errors. … They were really a lot of poor decisions.”

Clarke, the 42-year-old Northern Irishman who won his first major at Royal St. George’s two weeks ago, shook off an opening-hole bogey for a solid 69.

Clarke admitted to spending much of the weekend in bed recuperating from his epic post-British Open partying, his first major win in a 20-year career. His much-broadcast weeklong booze-up had been the talk of the nation for much of the past week.

Earlier this week, Clarke told those criticizing him to “get a life,” but conceded Thursday that he’d done himself some damage.

“My self-inflicted man flu hasn’t quite gotten that much better yet,” said Clarke, who frequently paused to cough and sniffle. “But I’m feeling strong enough to play well.”

The strongest Irish performance Thursday came from unheralded Colm Moriarty, ranked 536th in the world and a regular on the second-tier Challenge Tour. He shot a 67, the same as defending champion Ross Fisher of England and several others.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

 

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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.