A Star is Born Kid from Holywood on Center Stage

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The kid from Holywood sure looks like a star.
 
Of course, Rory McIlroy also looks like he got into the British Open with one of those tickets that allows juniors through the gates for free if they're with an adult.
 
Whatever the case, the baby-faced teen from Northern Ireland -- who claims to be all of 18 but could pass for even younger -- beat up on most of the grown-ups Thursday while shooting the only bogey-free opening round at Carnoustie.
 
Justifiably proud of his 3-under-par 68, McIlroy pondered the improbable: For one night, at least, he'd go to bed with a one-stroke edge on Tiger Woods, the two-time defending Open champion and the youngster's No. 1 role model.
 
'I think he'll be able to sleep all right,' McIlroy joked. 'But, yeah, it's a pretty special feeling to say you shot one better than Tiger.'
 
Woods wasn't the only one looking up to McIlroy after 18 holes.
 
He bested his playing partners, seasoned pros Henrik Stenson and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Heck, only two players -- leader Sergio Garcia at 65 and Paul McGinley with a 67 -- went lower than the lad from Holywood.
 
That would be Holywood, Northern Ireland, a town of 12,000 near Belfast that shares a pronunciation with America's movie capital, though hardly the glamour. Asked if his hometown has produced anyone else of note, McIlroy paused before answering.
 
'I think the guy who invented the cat's eyes in the road was from Holywood,' he said.
 
Although that was quite a step forward for transportation -- cat's eyes are reflectors on the highway that make it easier for motorists to differentiate the lanes at night -- the intrepid inventor might have to take a back seat to Holywood's newest sensation.
 
McIlroy was just three strokes off the lead, and he could have been even closer if not for a three-putt par at No. 6 and a 3-foot birdie attempt that slid by the cup at 14. After tapping in the latter for another par, he pulled the bill of the cap over his eyes, then snapped around in disgust.
 
There weren't many moments like that, though. For the most part, McIlroy was cheered by steadily increasing galleries, the fans taking the cherubic, floppy haired kid under their wing and carrying him right through to the 18th, where he received a rousing ovation crossing over the Barry Burn for the final time.
 
'I got a chill down the back of my spine,' McIlroy said.
 
Not that he hasn't been preparing for this moment most of his young life. McIlroy's father, Gerry, is a scratch golfer who still can beat his son on occasion. The family patriarch has belonged most of his life to the Holywood Golf Club, a par-69, 6,100-yard layout where young Rory honed his game.
 
'It's not that much of a test for me anymore,' he said. 'But it's good to go out there in the evening and practice my short game. There's some slopey greens and stuff on it, so it's pretty good.'
 
McIlroy finished up his schooling in Northern Ireland at 16 and briefly considered enrolling at a U.S. university, looking for a spot where he could work on his game year-round.
 
But once he got away from the classroom, he wasn't too keen on going back. So he focused on his golf, traveling as far as Australia to play while holding off on turning pro.
 
McIlroy helped Europe win the Junior Ryder Cup in 2004 (that doesn't bode well for U.S. hopes down the road) and got exempted into a few pro events, missing out on a payday when he made the cut this year at the Dubai Desert Classic before turning 18. He'll probably start accepting checks after playing the Walker Cup in September.
 
'He's fearless. He's a great ball striker, he's got a good short game and he's a good putter as well,' Stenson said. 'He seems to have it all. I think we'll be hearing more about him in the future.'
 
McIlroy admittedly was nervous when he stepped to the first tee. He took in a huge mouthful of air and tried to calm himself, though it took a few holes to settle down. He started with four straight pars before striking a 4-iron to 15 feet at No. 5, then sinking the putt for his first birdie.
 
After that, he felt as though he belonged.
 
'I don't think a bogey ever ran across my mind,' McIlroy said. 'I don't think I had many bad shots to put myself in a position to make bogeys. I just sort of went out there with the mind-set that I'm going to enjoy myself.'
 
Did he ever. Now, it might be time to adjust those goals.
 
McIlroy came to Carnoustie hoping to make the cut and win the silver medal as the lowest-scoring amateur. Shortly after walking off the course on a cool, gray Scottish evening, he was thinking of Justin Rose, who debuted at the Open as an amateur in 1998 -- and finished fourth at Royal Birkdale.
 
'If he can do that at that age (Rose was just shy of his 18th birthday), I'm sure I can as well,' said McIlroy, his confidence growing with every word. 'That's probably going to be mind-set for the next few days.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 136th Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - 136th Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

    By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

    After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

    The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

    Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

    In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

    “It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

    The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

    Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

    “It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

    Getty Images

    PGA Tour Latinoamerica moving season finale to Doral

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

    The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

    “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

    The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

    “We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

    The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

    A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

    Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

    Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

    Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

    In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

    “My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

    In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

    Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

    Getty Images

    Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

    A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

    Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

    As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

    "The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

    "Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

    Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

    That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.