A rugged start, solid finish for McIlroy

By Doug FergusonJuly 14, 2011, 3:24 pm

SANDWICH, England – For the first time in 11 months, Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in the early stages of a major championship and did not see his name atop the leaderboard.

That’s how good he has been at golf’s biggest events.

And the way he rallied from a rugged start Thursday in the British Open, McIlroy didn’t think his 1-over 71 was all that bad.

“Anywhere around even par was a good start,” McIlroy said.

Facing enormous attention coming off his wire-to-wire win at the U.S. Open last month, McIlroy made a few key putts in the middle of his round to steady himself against a stiff breeze at Royal St. George’s.

He was six shots behind Thomas Bjorn, who played extraordinary golf in the tougher morning conditions of wind and some rain, and English amateur Tom Lewis, who took advantage of better conditions in the afternoon.

Trailing by any margin can only be considered a strange spot for McIlroy based on his recent, amazing history. He has been in the lead after seven of the last eight rounds in the majors, the exception being the 80 he shot in the final round at The Masters to lose a four-shot lead.

This day was different. And if the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland didn’t know it, then he at least heard it.

The media has been building him up as golf’s next star after his record-setting performance at Congressional. And when he stepped on the first tee with a freshening wind off the Strait of Dover, the cheers resounded the length of the 444-yard opening hole.

“It was great,” he said. “I probably didn’t take it in as much as I could have. I was just trying to concentrate on that first tee shot and get that out of the way. But it’s nice to have that support out on the golf course. It’s fantastic. Hopefully, I can give them something to shout about.”

It took awhile in the opening round.

The biggest cheer came for 22-year-old Rickie Fowler, who holed a 75-foot putt from just off the back of the first green. McIlroy also went long, just a few inches in from of Fowler, and he rammed his long putt some eight feet past the hole and wound up three-putting for bogey.

Then came the par-3 third, where McIlroy got one of the wild, hard hops so often seen at Royal St. George’s and wound up in rough behind the green. The chip came out heavy, leading to another bogey. And his next tee shot went into deep grass in front of a large knoll.

Suddenly, this didn’t look like the U.S. Open champion. It looked like the kid who shot 80 the last day at Augusta National.

McIlroy powered a short iron out and onto the green, hit a superb chip from well left of the green at No. 5 to five feet to save par, and before long was back in his comfort zone.

It helped being paired with Fowler, an American of the same age, same style of play – they both waste no time hitting their shots – and with a history of playing together despite being so young. McIlroy and Fowler competed against each other in foursomes at the Walker Cup four years ago when both were teenagers at Royal County Down.

That was a home game for McIlroy, and this was not much different.

“The fans were great over here,” Fowler said. “Obviously, they’re cheering on Rory. It has a feeling like he’s a hero over here now. He’s had a pretty big impact, with impressive play recently and obviously at the U.S. Open. So it’s fun to play alongside him. I’ve always enjoyed it, and definitely felt like the crowd was in his favor today.”

Fowler looked to be the better of the two on this day, but not so much at the end. Fowler stalled in his round of 70. McIlroy rallied for a 71, starting with a smart approach on the eighth hole that rode up a ridge and trickled back toward the hole to four feet away for birdie.

Equally important was the short, tricky par putt on the ninth.

For all the hype outside the ropes, McIlroy clearly felt at ease doing what he does best. He was in his element, flashing that smile to the gallery as he bobs along the fairway between shots.

“I felt the par on 4 was big, but the up-and-down on 5 from left of the green was big for me, got me into it a bit,” he said. “I was a little disappointed I didn’t take advantage of the two par 5s – put myself in good positions off the tee there and only made two pars. But it was definitely a round after the start that could have got away from me, and it was nice to hang onto it.”

More media awaited after he finished up his round, to another rousing ovation. Everyone wants a piece of McIlroy these days. Everyone expects him to contend, especially in the majors.

“It’s a nice pressure to have,” McIlroy said. “I’m not complaining. I’ve put myself in this position, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to be under pressure to win tournaments. I mean, if that’s the worst complaint that I have, I’ll be doing all right.”

He was great Thursday. He didn’t shoot himself out of the tournament, either.

He was doing all right.

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Stricker wins Sanford for third Champions title of season

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 9:55 pm

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker won the inaugural Sanford International on Sunday for his third PGA Tour Champions title of the year, closing with a 3-under 67 for a four-stroke victory.

The 51-year-old Stricker birdied three of the first four holes and offset bogeys on 13 and 18 with birdies on 15 and 16. He shared the lead after each of the first two rounds, shooting 63-67 at Minnehaha Country Club.

Stricker also won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. Next week in France, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants.

Stricker finished at 13-under 197, and match Paul Broadhurst for the tour victory lead.

Tim Petrovic (65) and Jerry Smith (70) tied for second.

Brandt Jobe, tied for the second-round lead with Stricker, had a 72 to drop into a tie for fourth with Kevin Sutherland (67) at 8 under.

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Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


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“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.