McIlroy making golf look easy with WGC win

By Jason SobelAugust 4, 2014, 1:59 am

AKRON, Ohio – Golf is not a game of easy. There is no simple way to attack this pursuit, no effortless strategy to get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Like a dam that keeps springing leaks, as soon as one aspect starts going right, another often goes awry. There is no perfect.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. As Bobby Jones, one of the greatest to ever play, once preached, “No one will ever have golf under his thumb. No round will ever be so good it could not have been better.”

Someone needs to explain this to Rory McIlroy.

That’s because McIlroy didn’t just win on Sunday, didn’t just win his second straight title, didn’t just win his second straight title by tapping in a straightforward par putt on the final hole to cruise into a trophy ceremony.

No, he didn’t just win. He won easy.

There was a sweet poetry to this latest triumph, like a classical music composer presiding over a brilliant symphony. After rounds of 69-64-66 to open his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational campaign, McIlroy started with three birdies in the final frame and basically put things into cruise control from there, his mammoth drives off the tee helping alleviate all of the pressure that usually follows a player in that situation.

For fellow players who have dreams of winning major championships and other big-time events against their 25-year-old wunderkind peer, the scary part isn’t even that it looked easy. 

It’s that he’s making a habit of this.

“It felt normal,” McIlroy explained after the two-stroke victory. “It's never effortless. You're trying hard out there. You're trying not to make it look like you're trying hard. … [But] if I can keep making it look effortless, then that's a good thing.”

There are plenty of good things going on with his game right now – and most of them start with a driver in his hand. 

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Not exactly a muscular behemoth, McIlroy led the field in driving distance at Firestone South, averaging 315.4 yards per drive on Thursday, 321.6 on Friday, 320.1 on Saturday and 313.6 on Sunday. It takes a little gallows humor to suggest he was obviously taking a conservative approach in the final round.

Again, golf is never easy, but the game does become decidedly less complicated when hitting the ball such prodigious lengths leads to hitting it shorter distances into the greens.

That novelty hasn’t been lost on McIlroy.

“The longer the club, the harder it is to hit,” he surmised. “So if you're hitting arguably the hardest club in your bag to hit that well, then the other stuff should sort of fall in line or fall into place. I feel like that's what's sort of happened.

“Whenever I drive the ball well, I always put myself in positions where I can attack flags and try and make birdies. When I'm swinging it well with a driver, that sort of funnels through the rest of my game.”

If this sounds like a familiar refrain, there’s a reason. Right around the turn of the century, Tiger Woods had a knack for breaking the game down to its simplest elements and creating an aura that couldn’t be touched when he had his best stuff.

McIlroy certainly isn’t at that level yet, but he’s starting to show some flashes of it. After the win, he was careful not to compare himself to Woods, but acknowledged that he’s searching for that sort of influence.

“I grew up watching Tiger dominate in this tournament and dominate pretty much everywhere else he played,” he said. “I dreamed of one day trying to do something like that.”

He’s doing it now. He’s making the difficult look easy, making the complex look simple.

It won’t always be this way for McIlroy, of course. But he’s got momentum on his side. His best performance is a step above everybody else’s best performance.

And he’s doing it all so effortlessly.

“That's sort of what's going on at the minute,” he said with a smile. “I'm going to try to keep doing it for as long as possible because it's working pretty well.”

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

Getty Images

After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

Getty Images

Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”