McIlroy pens another dominating performance

By Jason SobelNovember 25, 2012, 6:38 pm

With an indisputable No. 1 atop the list of Best Golfers in the World, leaving the rest of the global population battling for position somewhere below, the greatest competition in golf may now be found in the form of players, media and fans attempting to climb and writhe their way past each other in choosing the perfect superlative for him.

Some will call Rory McIlroy 'mercurial' in the wake of his five-birdie finish to win the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday. Others will label him 'commanding' for a season that concludes with him not only first in the Official World Golf Ranking, but sweeping both the PGA Tour and European money lists.

Justin Rose, whose course-record 62 was only good enough for second place, opted to call the performance “class.” Luke Donald, who played alongside McIlroy in the final round, went with “amazing.” Their fellow Ryder Cup teammates Francesco Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts respectively chose “inspirational” and “unreal.”

Good news: There are no losers in this competition, other than those unwilling to recognize Rory’s current superiority. (If such people actually do exist, they’re clearly failing the ever-discerning eyeball test.)

The struggle for suitable superlatives should sound familiar, because it wasn’t so long ago that Tiger Woods was garnering similar attention. Comparisons and contrasts between Woods in his 1996-2009 form and McIlroy right now come fast and easy, even if the latter blanches at such correlations. They are alike in that both players have warranted excessive expectations, only to exceed them. They are dissimilar in that Woods often owned a propensity to win with something less than his “A” game. McIlroy will miss more cuts and play to a more mediocre level when he doesn’t have his best stuff, but when he does everyone else is usually playing for second place.

Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but those trying to apply specific adjectives to each player could label Tiger 1.0 as more “consistent” while Rory takes the edge in “torridness.” In either case, both descriptions lead to each being called “dominant,” which conjures the main theme here.

Golf has officially reentered the Thesaurus Era.

What it means is that much like competitors striving to keep pace with McIlroy, anyone wishing to chronicle his accomplishments had better come stronger than lame attempts such as “good” or “great” or the always inexcusable “words can’t even describe it.”

Here’s what we know about Rory’s recent run: Starting with the PGA Championship in August, his worldwide results table shows 1-24-1-1-10-2-3-MC-1. That's a winning percentage of 44.4 – or an even 50 if we include Ryder Cup, where he compiled a 3-2-0 record during Europe’s triumph.

Golf is an inherently cyclical game. What separates the elite from the rest of the pack is not only physical, mental and technical gifts, but often the ability to rebound from low points with aplomb, in effect limiting the ramification of such a cycle. It should be noted that McIlroy’s victory in Dubai came exactly one week after missing the cut in Hong Kong while referring to himself as “lethargic.”

If winning two of the last seven major championships by a pair of eight-stroke differentials isn’t enough to prove his worth, then bouncing back in resounding fashion should at least assist the notion of his supremacy.

Here’s what we don’t know about Rory’s recent run: Whether it will continue in 2013 and beyond. McIlroy has decided to eschew longtime equipment sponsor Titleist, which has drawn reaction ranging from those calling it a very dangerous decision to others claiming it won’t be an issue – and everything in between.

While it can’t be argued that he isn’t simply chasing the almighty dollar (or pound, as the case may be) with this impending move, we should likewise observe the quiet bravado it takes from a player to reach his sport’s pinnacle, then trust himself to remain atop that plateau despite such a monumental change.

If he does, the superlative game will endure next season and beyond, so many people attempting to climb and writhe past each other in their analysis of McIlroy’s preeminence. This isn’t a new period in the game. We witnessed the Thesaurus Era not so long ago, but the target of such descriptions has been indisputably altered.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

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All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

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“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

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First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

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“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”