McIlroy captures 94th PGA Championship

By Doug FergusonAugust 13, 2012, 1:15 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. - Rory McIlroy dressed the part as golf's next star and played like it, too.

Saving his bright red shirt for Sunday in the PGA Championship, McIlroy never gave anyone much of a chance. Two exquisite shots with the wedge set up back-to-back birdies to seize control of the final round. He never made a bogey over the final 23 holes of his marathon day.

McIlroy validated his eight-shot win at the U.S. Open last year by blowing away the field at Kiawah Island, making the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second major.

''I think I heard Tiger say, 'You can have a good season, but to make a good season a great season, you need a major championship,''' said McIlroy, who returned to No. 1 in the world. ''Now I've had two great seasons in a row no matter what happens from here in now. Hopefully, I can play some great golf from now until the end of the year and get myself ready for another great season next year, too.''

Standing on the 18th tee with a seven-shot lead, McIlroy turned to caddie J.P. Fitzgerald and said, ''I'm going to win this one by eight, as well.''

McIlroy rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt, raising the putter in his left hand as the ball rolled true to the center of the cup, saving enough strength to lift the heavy Wanamaker Trophy after another command performance in a major championship.

He shattered the scoring record at the U.S. Open. He broke Jack Nicklaus' record in the PGA Championship for margin of victory.

McIlroy took the lead for good Sunday morning with back-to-back birdies on the back nine to finish a rain-delayed third round at 67 for a three-shot lead. No one got closer than two shots at any point in the final round, and that last birdie gave McIlroy a 6-under 66.

David Lynn, a 38-year-old from England who was playing in America for the first time, won the B-flight. He closed with a 68 and was the runner-up.

Woods, who shared the 36-hole lead for the second time this year in a major, was never a serious factor. He tossed away his chances Saturday before the storm blew in and never could get closer than four shots. He closed with a 72, failing to break par on the weekend in any of the four majors for the first time in his career.

McIlroy was 13 shots better than Woods over the last two rounds.

''It was a great round of golf. I'm speechless,'' McIlroy said after hoisting the trophy. ''It's just been incredible. I had a good feeling about it at the start. I never imagined to do this.''

Winning the final major the year ends what had been a tumultuous season for McIlroy. Despite winning the Honda Classic in early March and going to No. 1 for the first time in his career, he went into a tail spin by missing four cuts over five tournaments as questions swirled that his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was hurting his game.

Instead, McIlroy put a big hurt on the strongest field of the year.

''I was a little frustrated with how I was playing earlier on in the year, but a few people in this room were probably pushing panic buttons for no reason,'' McIlroy said. ''It's just great to be able to put my name on another major championship trophy, and looking forward to April next year and getting a crack at another one.''

Woods predicted greatness for McIlroy when he first came to America at 19.

''He's very good. We all know the talent he has,'' Woods said. ''He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers. He's got all the talent in the world to do what he's doing. And this is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it's pretty impressive to watch.''

McIlroy finished on 13-under 275.

Ian Poulter put up the stiffest challenge, though not for long. Poulter, who started the final round six shots behind, made six birdies through seven holes to get within two shots. He made three straight bogeys on the back nine and had to settle for a 69. He tied for third at 4-under 284, along with Justin Rose (66) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).

In the final qualifying event for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, nothing changed.

Phil Mickelson was holding down the eighth and final spot, and he stayed there when neither Bo Van Pelt nor Steve Stricker could make a move on the back nine. Davis Love III will announce four captains' picks in three weeks.

McIlroy was tied for the lead with Vijay Singh when they returned Sunday. Twenty-seven holes later, McIlroy had no peer in the final major of the year.

When he won the U.S. Open last year, Padraig Harrington suggested that perhaps McIlroy - not Woods - might be the one to challenge the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. That looked like nothing more than one Irishman boosting another when McIlroy didn't come close in the next five majors.

But now?

''I think winning his second major is going to make things a lot easier for him,'' Harrington said. ''I think last year he proved it, but there's been ups and downs since his last major win because of the pressure and the expectations and the hype. Now he's delivered again. It's going to be a lot easier for him going forward. And he'll get better.''

Woods won his second major in his 12th try as a pro. McIlroy won his second in his 16th major.

''It's tough to say that Rory is a Tiger Woods type player,'' said Graeme McDowell, McIlroy's closest friend on tour. ''Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and Rory is at least a once-in-a-decade type player. He's that good. ... He's going to be a superstar of game, which he already is. But he's a real superstar now.''

McIlroy went out in 33, saving par with a 10-foot putt on the ninth hole. That's what Woods used to do in the majors.

Poulter's birdie on the par-5 11th hole closed the gap to two shots, but not for long. From the sandy area short of the 10th green, McIlroy blasted out and closed his eyes when the wind blew sand into his face. He never saw the ball check a foot from the cup. And with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th, there was no stopping him.

The win ends a streak of the last 16 majors going to 16 different winners. McIlroy joined Woods, Harrington and Mickelson as the only players to win majors in consecutive years over the last two decades.

Carl Pettersson tried to put up a good fight, though he suffered a setback on the first hole without even realizing it.

The Swede drove just inside a red hazard line. He checked to make sure his club could touch the grass without grounding the club. That part was fine. However, PGA rules officials determined after scrutinizing a video replay that a small leaf that moved as Pettersson took back the club. That violates Rule 13-4c - moving a loose impediment while in a hazard - and three holes later he was informed it was a two-shot penalty. The par became a double bogey.

Pettersson responded with back-to-back birdies. By then, it was too late for Pettersson, really too late for anybody.

McIlroy might have won this major before breakfast.

He was among 26 players who had to return Sunday morning, playing the back nine to finish the storm-delayed third round. Tied with Vijay Singh at 6-under par, McIlroy missed two short birdie chances, and then made bogey on the 13th. He rebounded with birdies on the 15th and 16th, a tough bunker save on the 17th and a closing par for a 67 that gave him a three-shot lead.

Not once during the final round did the kid look like he was going to lose this one.

After going back to his island home for breakfast, a quick nap and a change of clothes - a bright red shirt, no less - McIlroy looked solid as ever. After pulling his approach on the par-5 second hole under a tree, he hit wedge off the wood chips to 6 feet for birdie. He came up just short of the green at No. 3, where the tees were moved up to play 293 yards, and hit an even better flip wedge to a tiny target on an elevated green. McIlroy holed a 15-foot birdie putt, and he was on his way.

As for the shirt?

McIlroy was planning to wear red, but only if he wasn't playing with Woods. He remembers Luke Donald in a red shirt while tied with Woods in the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah, which Woods won by five shots.

''I wasn't playing with him and thought I would wear it,'' McIlroy said. ''Might have to do it from now on. No wonder he wins so much.''

Woods stepped into a cactus while hitting out of the dunes on the 15th hole in the morning, and his day got even more painful from there. He has gone 14 majors since winning his last one, No. 14, at the 2008 U.S. Open. He looks to be closer, with three PGA Tour wins this year and two 36-hole leads in the majors.

His regret when it was over - he tied for 11th - was all about attitude.

''I came out with the probably the wrong attitude yesterday,'' he said. ''And I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that's now how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me.''

It might not have mattered.

McIlroy said earlier in the week that he only wanted to give himself a chance, to feel that buzz of being in contention in the final round. He wound up putting the buzz back into golf, a sport in which all the talk has been about parity. McIlroy's name on the leaderboard means something.

''Rory is showing that with his 'A' game, everybody else is going to struggle to compete with him,'' Harrington said. ''And Tiger needs his 'A' game to come up against Rory. ... If Rory is playing as well as he is, Tiger is not going to pick a major off unless he's got his 'A' game out there.''

McIlroy is the sixth-youngest player to win two majors. The others were Young Tom Morris, John McDermott, Gene Sarazen, Nicklaus and Ballesteros. McIlroy set himself apart in one measure. He has won two majors by a combined 16 shots.

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Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”