Woods, McIlory look to build momentum

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2012, 10:44 pm

DORAL, Fla. — Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are at Doral to build momentum in different ways.

McIlroy is the new No. 1 in golf after winning the Honda Classic. He is not concerned with how long he can stay there as much as he is winning the Cadillac Championship in his last tournament before Augusta National.

“This is a World Golf Championship, and it’s my last event before the Masters,” McIlroy said. “I’d love to give myself a chance to win here again this week, and go into that three-week break with a lot of confidence.”

Woods is coming off a 62, the lowest final round of his career, hopeful that it’s the strongest sign yet that he is close to a full return to form that made him No. 1 longer than anyone. 

For both, last week is nothing but a memory, albeit a happy one.

“Doesn’t count,” Woods said Wednesday before going out for a practice round on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral. “That tournament is over with, whether you missed the cut or won the tournament. It’s over. Now we’re on to a new week, a new golf course, and have to learn it and be ready by Thursday. 

What remains to be seen is which moment is more meaningful going forward.

Not only was it the best score for Woods in more than two years, it was nearly nine shots better than the average score in the final round at windswept PGA National. He ended his big charge with a 5-iron that was exquisite, finishing 8 feet away for eagle.

But he still didn’t win, and hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since September 2009.

Woods is coming up on a stretch of courses he knows well. He is a three-time winner at Doral, and it’s the only tournament he regularly plays that he has never finished out of the top 10. Two weeks later is Bay Hill, where he has won a record 10 times.

And while statistics can be meaningless, especially this early in the year, Woods took note of the fact that he’s No. 1 in total driving, which is a combination of accuracy (No. 5) and distance (No. 14).

“Now it’s on to other aspects of the game,” Woods said. “You have to take up and focus on the weaknesses, make them strengths. And we’ve done that, and we still have some more weaknesses to look at and to fix.”

There appears to be little wrong with McIlroy in so many ways.

Not long after Woods won the 1997 Masters by a record 12 shots, he began to revamp his swing. McIlroy was asked what he was doing to his swing, and he said he was trying to get it closer to last summer when he shot a record score to win the U.S. Open.

Now, it’s about getting better.

 The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland allowed himself a few moments Sunday night on the plane to New York, where he spent a few days with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, to soak in his achievement at going to No. 1 in the world.

And he also conceded that it was a little unnerving, a lot more satisfying, that it was Woods that challenged him at the Honda Classic. Woods’ birdie-eagle finish put him one shot off the lead, and McIlroy had six holes left. He then birdied the 13th, saved par on three of the next four holes and won by two shots.

“To be honest, I was probably thinking to myself, `Could it not just have been anyone else?”’ McIlroy said to laughter. “The way I did it Sunday, with Tiger making the charge, it was almost more satisfying to do it that way, knowing that I held up under pretty intense pressure when I needed to.

“Closing out tournaments, and knowing what you need to do at the right time, all just comes with experience,” he said. “And I feel like I’ve had a lot of experiences where I could have won tournaments and I haven’t. And it’s taking what you need from those close finishes and trying to do something a little bit better.”

McIlroy moves into the marquee grouping of this World Golf Championship, based on the world ranking. He will play the opening two rounds with Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the two players at No. 1 before him.

Woods will be on the opposite nine, with defending champion Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia.

There is talk of a potential rivalry, which is possible despite Woods and McIlroy being a generation apart. Jack Nicklaus was rivals with Arnold Palmer, who was 10 years older, and then Tom Watson, who was 10 years younger.

Rivalries aren’t always determined by head-to-head meetings as much as how often players win. That’s why Woods and Phil Mickelson established the best rivalry of their generation.

“I’m going to let other people make the comparisons,” McIlroy said. “I’m not going to try and compare myself to anyone else. I’ve never said that I want to be the next anyone. I just want to be the first Rory McIlroy, however good that turns out to be. Then, I’ll try my best to win tournaments and to win majors and to be the best player in the world.

“There’s still a long road ahead, and I feel like I can accomplish a lot more.”

Lost in this discussion is Mickelson, who returns from a two-week break after playing as well as anyone. Mickelson shot 64 in the final round to win at Pebble Beach (with Woods at his side shooting a 75), then lost in a playoff at Riviera. 

Mickelson has never been No. 1, and he has no problems with McIlroy at the top. Still, he looks at a broader picture of Donald and Westwood, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer, and even Mickelson as players capable of taking over.

“We have not had somebody play to the level of Tiger, and so we have four, five, six guys that are battling for the No. 1 spot, it seems, monthly,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know where it will all settle, but certainly he’s a worthy No. 1.”

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”