McIlroy opinions spun into criticism of Tiger

By Doug FergusonMarch 9, 2011, 2:11 am

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – Rory McIlroy has said nothing wrong.

One of the brightest young stars in golf, McIlroy has been making news over the last few weeks for giving his opinion on Tiger Woods, and there really isn’t much good to say about the game of the No. 5 player in the world.

Yet the perception is that McIlroy is taking one too many jabs at Woods, and that he is soon to join the list of players whose criticism comes back to haunt them.

But that assumes it was criticism in the first place.

In an essay under McIlroy’s byline in Sports Illustrated’s “Golf Plus” section, McIlroy said that Woods is not playing as well as he did a couple of years ago, let alone a decade ago when no one was close to him in the game.

“I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did,” McIlroy said in the essay. “He never seemed like he would make a mistake. It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer. People expect more of him because of what he has achieved.”

Indeed, there are questions as to whether Woods can rule golf the way he did in 2000, when his nine wins included three straight majors. Or the way he did after his father died in 2006, when he won 18 of 33 tournaments worldwide, four of eight majors and had a seven-month stretch without ever losing.

Can anything else be disputed?

The problem is that Woods, through a dozen years of unprecedented dominance, has created a culture of being off limits to other players giving honest answers.

And remember, answers usually are the product of a question.

This only looks bad on two counts. One is that it’s easy to pile on Woods right now, even though he has only himself to blame. The other is that the commentary is coming from a 21-year-old with all of two career victories, who has never faced Woods at his best.

“That’s the answer a 21-year-old would give, isn’t it?” Lee Westwood said last week with a smile. “I think having played with Tiger since 1997 or something like that … there’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle. He’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with and I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.

“I’ve seen him play poorly and win tournaments,” Westwood said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to get back to where he was.”

And then he whimsically added, “I’ll have a word with Rory later.”

Last year, McIlroy talked about Woods before the Ryder Cup, when the American had yet to be added to the U.S. team as a captain’s pick. In an interview with an Irish newspaper, he said he expected Woods to be in Wales.

“I would love to face him,” McIlroy said. “Unless his game rapidly improves … I think anyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him.”

The interview took place a week after Woods finished next-to-last at Firestone, where he had won seven times and never finished out of the top 10. Woods had his worst 72-hole score as a professional that week. He didn’t look capable of beating anyone.

A month later, there were rumors swirling around Cog Hill that Woods had told McIlroy, “Be careful what you wish for.” Woods denied that, although he was aware of the comments. And while he mentioned McIlroy in context with Stephen Ames, Woods also gave the kid a break. “At least Rory said, ‘Unless my game improves,”’ Woods said, a concession to fact.

The reference to Ames came from the 2006 Match Play Championship, when Ames was the No. 64 seed and jokingly said on the practice range about his chances, “Anything can happen – especially where he’s hitting the ball.”

It was harmless humor, although the quote became far more serious in the “lift, clean and paste” era of the Internet that eliminated all context. Asked about it after the match, Woods only mentioned the score – 9 and 8.

There have been others. Rory Sabbatini once said Woods looked as “beatable as ever” after losing to him at Quail Hollow, and three months later, Woods went from a one-shot deficit to Sabbatini to an eight-shot victory at Firestone.

Some of these grudges are overcooked.

Woods wasn’t bothered by Sabbatini’s comments as much as he was Sabbatini withdrawing from the Chevron World Challenge before the final round. And while Vijay Singh’s caddie wrote, “Tiger Who?” on the back of his cap at the Presidents Cup before Woods’ 2-and-1 victory, he and Singh have long had mutual respect for each other.

McIlroy’s only playful jab came two weeks ago at the Match Play Championship, when he was asked about a potential changing of the guard with so many good young players. He started to say that Woods and Phil Mickelson have not gotten any worse when he paused and said with a smile, “Well, yeah, I mean I don’t think Phil has gotten any worse.”

If he is guilty of anything, McIlroy believes it’s getting his message out the right way. He recently saw an interview with Sean Foley, Woods’ swing coach, who said that Woods had spoiled golf fans with a level never before seen. And with the depth on tours across oceans, it might be hard to repeat that.

Maybe the kid should keep it short, for it was on Twitter where McIlroy made himself perfectly clear.

“Hate that the media thinks I’m taking jabs at Tiger all the time. Best that’s ever lived. Ever. Just not playing his best at the minute. If he plays his best we’re all screwed. Hard to dodge the Tiger questions when you get 10 every interview you do.”

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Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout


''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''

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Spieth looking forward to Colonial after T-21

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:10 am

DALLAS – Jordan Spieth finally got a few putts to drop at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but after a frustrating week he’s looking forward to heading across town.

Spieth shot a 4-under 67 amid soggy conditions at Trinity Forest Golf Club, his lowest score of the week but one that still left him in a tie for 21st at 11 under par. His frustrations had a common theme throughout the week, as he ranked seventh among the field in strokes gained: tee to green but 72nd in strokes gained: putting.

“Felt like I played better than I scored,” Spieth said. “Just burned the edges or barely missed, and I misread a lot of putts, too. Overall just struggled a little bit matching line and speed and kind of getting it all together out here.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Spieth remains in search of his first win since The Open in July, but his results in the interim haven’t exactly been a struggle. This marks his seventh top-25 finish in his last nine starts as an individual.

Spieth is in the midst of a busy part of his schedule, and will play his third of four events in a row next week at the Fort Worth Invitational. With runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017 sandwiched around a victory there two years ago, Spieth did little to contain his excitement for a return to venerable Colonial Country Club.

“It’s one of those courses where whether I have my A game or not, I seem to find my way into contention, which is really cool,” Spieth said. “It’s one of four or five places I go into, no matter where the game is at, I’m excited to get started and feel like I have a chance to win.”

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Razorbacks, Fassi scrambling to recover in NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 21, 2018, 12:56 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – We’re not even halfway through this NCAA Championship, and the top women’s player in the country is already worn out.

Indeed, it’s been three rounds of hard work for Maria Fassi as she tries to claw herself and second-ranked Arkansas back into contention at Karsten Creek.

“I haven’t been able to create momentum of any kind,” she said after a third-round 73 left her at 16-over 232, 23 shots off the individual lead and outside the top 90. “I’ve been fighting every single hole. It’s just been exhausting.”

It’s been that way for her teammates, too.

Arkansas entered nationals as one of the pre-tournament favorites. The Razorbacks won the SEC Championship for the first time. They won seven events, including a regional title in which they shot 26 under par on the University of Texas’ home course. They were comfortable knowing that they not only had Fassi, the top-ranked player and a six-time winner this season, but also a strong supporting cast that includes Baylor transfer Dylan Kim and Alana Uriell.

And then the first two rounds happened. The Razorbacks had shot a team score in the 300s just once all season, but they posted two in a row here at Karsten Creek (308-300).

Fassi’s play has been even more of a mystery. In the opening round she shot 81 – with two birdies. She followed it up with a second-round 78, then birdied her last two holes just to shoot 73 on Sunday. She thought she had a smart game plan – taking fewer drivers, putting the ball in play on arguably the most difficult college course in the country – and it just hasn’t worked out.

“I just need to stay really patient, be true to myself and keep fighting,” she said. “I know what I’m capable of doing, and if I play my game it’s going to be plenty good.”

So what’s been the conversation among teammates the past two nights?

“It involved a lot of cuss words,” Fassi said. “We know this is not Arkansas golf. We know this is not the game that we play.”

The top-15 cut line should have been an afterthought for a team as talented as the Razorbacks, and yet they needed a 1-over 289 just to play Monday’s fourth round of stroke-play qualifying.

“Backs against the wall, they had to go get it done and they did an awesome job,” said Arkansas coach Shauna Taylor. “In our locker room we call it ‘Do the Possible.’ It’s doing what you’re capable of doing.”

And now the Razorbacks sit in 11th place, just six shots off the top-8 cut after their two worst rounds all season. They still have a chance to advance.

“You can’t panic,” Taylor said. “We’ve played great golf all year. We’ve put ourselves in a hole and it was time to go to work and dig yourselves out of it.”

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Watch: Elvis returns, whiffs golf shot at Tiger Jam

By Grill Room TeamMay 21, 2018, 12:18 am