Punch Shot: How can McIlroy get better in 2015?

He won four times, including two majors, in 2014. So what can world No. 1 Rory McIlroy do to improve his game in 2015? GolfChannel.com's writers weigh in.

BY REX HOGGARD

He could always tidy up his short game (he ranked 123rd in sand save percentage last season on the PGA Tour), or maybe his wedge play (he was 108th in approach shots from 50 to 75 yards).

Perhaps Rory McIlroy could further refine his schedule in order to peak in April when he will head down Magnolia Lane a green jacket away from the career Grand Slam.

One can pick apart the Northern Irishman’s game ad nauseam, but considering his play last year perhaps the only thing he should look to improve upon in 2015 is his own internal dialogue.

The world No. 1 has proven himself immune to the external pressures of media scrutiny and the inherent armchair coaching that is part and parcel of being the game’s best.

What now stands between McIlroy and continued greatness are his own expectations. Too lofty an outlook and he could become susceptible to self-doubt, too little and he runs the risk of lapsing into competitive lethargy.

Striking a balance between what he hopes to accomplish and how he intends to arrive there is crucial to his ongoing development, and, short of the ubiquitous nitpicking, is the one thing he should look to improve in 2015.


BY JASON SOBEL

Rory McIlroy plays his best golf when he’s smiling and his mind is right.

Think about it: When he came down with a sudden “toothache” two years ago, he admitted that he was just mentally exhausted. Last year, his game took a dramatic turn for the better after he’d come to terms on breaking off his engagement. He started winning major championships after claiming he stopped checking his phone and laptop.

And so entering this year, the best way for McIlroy to match or even surpass last season’s historic performance has less to do with driving accuracy or putting acumen and more to do with ensuring everything in his life is copacetic off the course.

That won’t be easy, especially with an ongoing legal battle against his former management team scheduled to go to trial soon. Not to mention that, unlike those technical aspects of his game, he has little control over outside influences that could deter his mindset.

What’s become apparent, though, is that he plays his best when his mind is at ease.


BY RANDALL MELL

Keep tuning out the noise.

It looks like Rory McIlroy does a pretty good job of that as it is for a 25-year-old, but the more big events he wins, the more history he makes, the louder the chaos around him will become.

Imagine the hoopla if he wins the Masters in April to complete the Grand Slam? There will always be distractions. Whether it’s a high or a low in his personal life, or a bad turn in business, maybe even another lawsuit someday, there will always be challenges crowding his game.

What did John Lennon write in that song? “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans?”

McIlroy isn’t going to be at his best every time he tees it up. Nobody is. The shorter he can make his swoons, the ones every player endures, and the longer he makes his time “in the zone,” the greater his fame will become.

His focus, his ability to tune out what doesn’t matter, will serve him well this coming year and beyond.


BY RYAN LAVNER

Let’s be serious: There’s not much Rory McIlroy needs to improve on the course in 2015.

He was third in driving distance. He led the PGA Tour in the strokes gained-tee to green statistic. He made the most birdies per round. He had the lowest scoring average.

Maybe you could point to his shoddy bunker play (123rd), or his short wedge shots (108th from 50-75 yards), or his mid-length putting (155th from 20-25 feet), but realistically none of those stats held him back during a two-major, four-win season that rocketed him back to world No. 1.

So what McIlroy canimprove in 2015 has nothing to do with his performance on the course. It’s what he does away from it, with the myriad distractions that come with being one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet.

Last year, he was embroiled in a court case against his former management company (the trial begins next month) and broke off his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. The year prior, he was breaking in new equipment and providing plenty of fodder for the tabloids.

His court case is inevitable, but McIlroy would do well to eliminate some of the drama that has plagued him the past few years – for his own sanity, if nothing else. 


BY WILL GRAY

Rory McIlroy doesn’t have much room for improvement after a torrid close to 2014, but one area that could use a tune-up is consistency. Sure, when the Ulsterman is “on” he is nearly unbeatable, a gear the likes of which we rarely see. But when things went south last year, the product was often a nine-hole stretch of 40+ or a round well over par, a scoring balloon that was seemingly isolated to Fridays for parts of the spring.

McIlroy knows what it takes to win on the game’s biggest stages, but improvement will come when his bad holes, rounds and tournaments become better.

He began to turn a corner in this department last year when he salvaged multiple top-25 finishes despite those scoring outliers, but if McIlroy is going to be (justifiably) compared to Tiger Woods, he’ll need to measure himself against Woods’ incredibly high standard of excellence during those weeks when things weren’t quite firing on all cylinders.

It seems like a minor tweak, but it’s hard to offer much counsel to a man with a major trophy in each hand.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.