McIlroy in pursuit of more majors

By Jason SobelJuly 29, 2014, 8:06 pm

AKRON, Ohio - There is no way to definitively predict how a major champion will follow his celebrated triumph. There's no calculable method for knowing exactly how one will react to reaching the pinnacle of achievement in this game. 

Will he let his guard down, allowing himself to enjoy the spoils in the warm afterglow? Or will it fuel his desire even more, leaving him hungrier to taste victory again?

Like most major champions, Rory McIlroy is professing the latter. He's saying all the right things. He believes his recent Open Championship title was just the start of more winning ways rather than the culmination.

“I always feel like winning a major,” he explained, “is almost a springboard in a way.”

Unlike most other champions, his game might back up that sentiment.

Already in his young career, McIlroy has displayed a knack for not easing off the gas pedal when he's got his best stuff working. Call it strong mental fortitude or just the happy byproduct of a streaky inclination, but either way it shows in the results.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Three years ago, he countered his U.S. Open title with a T-25 in his next start at the Open Championship, but soon regained form, finishing sixth or better in six of his next eight starts, a run that ended with a win at the Hong Kong Open less than six months after he tore up Congressional. The next year, he followed a PGA Championship victory with a T-24 in his next appearance, then won each of his two starts after that and once again in the European Tour finale.

That probably sounds like a normal progression, using the major victories to propel himself to more success, but the truth is that McIlroy remains an outlier when it comes to doubling down on major prosperity.

Granted they're still enjoying a deserved grace period, but neither of this year's previous two major champions - Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer - has won in the time since.

More peculiarly, neither have two of last year's major winners - Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner. Or Ernie Els from the year before. Heck, even three of the four major champions from a half-decade ago have yet to ascend to any victory circle, anywhere, in the time since.

Don’t expect McIlroy to fall victim to a similar fate.

“I think every time you have success, you need to reassess your goals,” he said Tuesday in advance of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “A lot of the goals that I set myself for the start of the year, I've achieved already. So that's when you have to reassess and say like, OK, you've boxed that off. It's great. Celebrate it for a couple of days, but then you've got to move on.

“You've got to keep moving forward and keep thinking about what you want to achieve from now until the end of the year.”

Call it a classic case of a sentiment that’s easier said than done.

After all, it’s not as if the likes of Watson, Kaymer, Mickelson, Dufner and Els have packed it in and simply been content with their most recent major wins. And it’s not as if they’re each playing poorly, either.

The simple truth is that success doesn’t come easy. In the cyclical nature of professional golf, where losing heavily outweighs winning, even for the greatest players of all time, following any victory with another is an intricate task laden with pratfalls. Following a major victory with more wins in the short term is even tougher.

And yet, here’s McIlroy, just two weeks removed from his latest major conquest, sounding not only confident in his upcoming chances to build his resume, but hungry for more.

“I feel like I've got a lot of momentum and I can carry that through to the end of the year,” he boasted. “Hopefully ride that and play some really good golf and some golf similar to what you saw at Hoylake.”

Those words echo what so many other major champions have decreed in the past. Few have been able to live up to their own hype, though, instead failing to promptly build on that momentum.

So far in his career, McIlroy has proven to be an outlier. Starting this week, he’ll have an opportunity to prove that he isn’t all talk this time, either.

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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.”