What We Learned: Dubai

By Ryan LavnerNovember 25, 2012, 8:52 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from recent tournaments and news developments. This week, our writers weigh in with their thoughts on world No. 1 Rory McIlroy closing out the European Tour season with his fifth worldwide victory of the year at the DP World Tour Championship.

OK, I’ll admit it: There are benefits to nonstop golf.

It’s Nov. 25. The FedEx Cup ended more than two months ago. The last major was contested more than three months ago. Yet this morning, you could have flipped on the TV, poured a cup of coffee and watched as world No. 1 Rory McIlroy (paired with world No. 2 Luke Donald) tracked down world No. 7 Justin Rose, with world No. 6 Louis Oosthuizen also in the hunt. And this week, if you’re interested, Tiger Woods is playing in California alongside all but one of his U.S. Ryder Cup teammates. And next week, there’s the Shark Shootout and the European Tour’s 2013 season opener and the Thailand Golf Championship. No shortage of world-class golf.

Golf could use an offseason, no doubt, if only to hit the refresh button and take a collective breath and create storylines for the following year. But what we have now isn’t terrible, either. – Ryan Lavner

Titleist has been criticized in recent months for grooming Rory McIlroy into his position as the world’s best golfer, only to play catch-and-release now that he’s finally there. (To be fair, McIlroy himself has been condemned more for chasing the money with another equipment manufacturer going forward, rather than keeping with the status quo.) The reality, though, is that the company now finds itself in a win-win scenario – even if it comes via the loser’s bracket in the Race To Rory. In his last nine starts playing Titleist equipment, McIlroy won four times, including a thrilling performance in Dubai to prevail by two strokes on Sunday. That he did so while wielding tools soon to be banished to the back of his garage either speaks volumes about him or the tools themselves – or maybe both. If Rory begins 2013 the way he ended 2012, he’ll easily answer that question. Any struggles, though – and with increased expectations, any week without a W will be considered by many as a struggle – and talk will turn to his improbably poor decision to leave Titleist, in essence providing free advertising for the manufacturer that its competition couldn’t buy with $200 million. If you’ve got to lose the world’s best player, at least this would be a pretty strong consolation prize. – Jason Sobel

Rory McIlroy is the story of 2012. Sure, the Northern Irishman was on the rise in 2011, fresh off his maiden major at Congressional and a record-setting season, but in ’12 he distanced himself from the field and endured the first slump of his career. Following a place, win, show (second, first, third) start to his PGA Tour season, McIlroy missed three cuts in four starts and tied for 60th at the Open Championship, prompting some to question his game, focus and motivation. Since that summer swoon, however, he won three times on Tour, Sunday’s season finale on the European Tour in Dubai and money titles on both sides of the Atlantic divide. Not bad for a 23-year-old, second-year Tour player. – Rex Hoggard

Absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. I don't miss the Skins Game. Today's game has little personality and $120K carry-overs don't mean much to the guys anyone would want to watch. It would be fun to see players bet their own money, like in a practice round. Phil telling Tiger, 'I got 5 grand says you miss this putt.' But that will never fly. Thanks for the memories, Skins Game. Rest in peace. – Mercer Baggs

We’ll never really know just how tired Rory McIlroy was. We all heard the sound bites. We all saw the Twitter photo of McIlroy asleep on the beach.

If Sunday is what being pooped looks like, the golf world is really in trouble.

What McIlroy accomplished in Dubai, making birdie on his last five holes to defeat Justin Rose by two shots at the DP World Tour Championship, was one more reminder what professional golf is in for in the era of McIlroy.

As if we needed any more reminders.

McIlroy had already sewn up the money list before he stuck a peg in the ground Thursday. He’d already acquitted himself as the best player on the planet, by virtue of his dual money titles, highlighted by an eight-shot romp at the PGA Championship (where he overslept before his final round at Kiawah – maybe he really was tired).

Just wait until the kid tightens up his schedule next season. He’ll be a bit more rested then. The golf world is on notice. – Damon Hack

Rory McIlroy is an emotional roller coaster. He wowed us yet again with his final five birdies at the DP World Tour Championship en route to his fifth worldwide win this year, but the young Jedi missed the cut in Hong Kong just one week ago citing fatigue and lethargy. He is the clear world No. 1 and deserving of the title any which way you slice it, but the 23-year-old still lacks stability. Not that I’m complaining – I plan to sit back and enjoy the ride – but I certainly have a newfound appreciation for Miss Wozniacki. – Bailey Mosier

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.