McIlroy wins at Firestone, takes back No. 1 ranking

By Doug FergusonAugust 3, 2014, 11:38 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Winning the British Open wasn't enough to make Rory McIlroy want to take the rest of the year off to celebrate. Neither was the first World Golf Championship he won Sunday at Firestone.

Another major awaits next week. McIlroy can't wait to get there.

Two weeks after his wire-to-wire win at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy took his game from the links of Britain to the parkland of America and made the game look just as easy. With another powerful performance, he wiped out a three-shot deficit to Sergio Garcia in three holes, closed with a 4-under 66 and returned to No. 1 in the world with a two-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational.

He looked just as good as the last time he reached No. 1 in the world during his torrid stretch at the end of 2012.

''This is better,'' he said. ''Mentally, I'm really sharp. I didn't start to think about score. I didn't think about where I was in the tournament. I was just playing shot after shot after shot. So yeah, it's good.''


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Garcia wasn't at his best and closed with a 71. He's not sure it would have mattered.

''Everybody saw it,'' Garcia said. ''He played very, very well. He drove the ball miles and very, very straight for the most part. He gave himself a lot of birdie looks.''

McIlroy finished the third round with two straight birdies, and not even one day and a rain delay slowed him. He punched an 8-iron out of the rough, under the trees and up the slope to an elevated green to 3 feet to open with a birdie. He drilled a 4-iron from 219 yards into 25 feet for a two-putt birdie at the second, and then followed with a gap wedge to 8 feet for a third straight birdie. Garcia made bogey from the rough, and just like that, he was trailing. The Spaniard never caught up.

McIlroy became the 13th player with a major and a World Golf Championship, and he joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win them in consecutive starts.

Woods wasn't around to see it.

Four months after back surgery, and in his third tournament since his return, Woods injured his lower back when he landed with a thud in the sand from an awkward stance atop a bunker on the second hole. He withdrew after a tee shot on the ninth hole, bending over slowly and struggling to remove the tee from the ground.

It was not clear if Woods could play in the PGA Championship next week.

McIlroy heads south to Valhalla with a full head of steam. After a brief celebration with the claret jug, he was determined to move forward and chase more titles over the final four months of the year. He backed it up with a powerful performance on a soggy Firestone course to take the top spot in the world from Adam Scott.

''That's the most pleasing thing about this week is not dwelling about what happened at Hoylake,'' he said. ''That's what I'll have to do after this, as well. I've just got to keep moving forward. It's great to have a chance to try to go there to win three in a row. But if you'd have asked me what I'm proudest of this week, it's the mindset that I took into here of not being complacent. I wanted to come here and really contend.''

McIlroy finished at 15-under 265 and won $1.53 million, leaving him $765 short of Bubba Watson on the PGA Tour money list.

More important was the world ranking.

He lost the No. 1 position in March 2013 when his game was in a downward spiral as he was adjusting to a new equipment deal and going through another management change. But since winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth at May, his game looks as strong as ever.

''Obviously, Rory is in incredible form at the moment,'' Scott said. ''He'll be the man to beat next week by the look of things. And I'll be gunning for him, for sure.''

Garcia was a runner-up to McIlroy for the second straight time.

The Spaniard had the daunting task of making up a seven-shot deficit at the British Open, and Garcia put up a great fight until finishing two shots behind at Hoylake. Staked to at three-shot lead at Firestone, it didn't go much better.

Garcia missed a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 second hole with a putt that never looked as if it was going in. His lead down to one, Garcia pulled his tee shot into the gallery on the third hole, striking a woman on the hand and knocking the diamond out of her ring. The diamond was found, about the lone bright spot in his day. Garcia made bogey, and McIlroy rolled in another birdie putt to take the lead.

Garcia made only one birdie, on the ninth hole to share the lead. McIlroy answered with an 8-foot birdie on No. 11 and was on his way.

Marc Leishman (67) finished alone in third.

Patrick Reed holed out for eagle on No. 17 in his round of 65 and gave him a tie for fourth, enough to move him up to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings and boost his hopes of making his first team with only the PGA Championship left in the qualifying period.

Phil Mickelson made 10 birdies for a career-best 62 at Firestone.

None of that could top McIlroy, who put on another exhibition and looked every bit the part of the world's best player.

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DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.

While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.

Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.

McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.

Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth

16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Justin Rose

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day

30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson

80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner

100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman

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Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.

The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.

A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.

The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.

That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.

Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.