McIlroy's dual money titles illustrate World Tour

By Jason SobelNovember 13, 2012, 3:49 pm

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away once private jets became routinely available, there was a golfing king earning a princely sum for playing the game. But he wanted more.

King Norman was his name and he had an idea.

Rather than the game’s royalty competing against the proletariat in their native lands, each of these kings would compete in smaller, elite fields against only themselves. There would be greater riches at stake for fewer players, keeping the kings fat and happy with their increasing opulence while also serving the desires of the townsfolk who enjoyed watching the kings more than the others.

It was the ultimate win-win scenario underlying a rich-get-richer philosophy.

Not for the governors of golf, though. These commissioners and chief executives saw their vision of the game being challenged and so they stormed the castle in an attempt to halt such proceedings. And it worked. By threatening membership status of the kings, they quashed King Norman’s formation of a World Tour, keeping the status quo intact.

Well, sort of.

Video: Is McIlroy winning Race to Dubai bad for Euro Tour?

Not long afterward, the commissioners and chief executives began understanding the need to bring the game’s elite together more often – but under their rules, not somebody else’s. And so the World Golf Championships were implemented, a way for the best of the best to compete against each other for greater riches. It was essentially King Norman’s idea without King Norman’s stamp of approval.

Since then, the game has gradually grown on the highest level to become a genuine World Tour, if not officially in name, then certainly in its ideology.

Major championships and WGC events are all co-sanctioned, meaning players can increase status on any major tour by faring well in these tournaments. Many of the world’s best – the kings of the game – are now members of various tours, globetrotting and pond-hopping with ease throughout the year.

Tiger Woods was never an official member of the European Tour, but earned enough money to have topped its Order of Merit on six separate occasions. Last year, Luke Donald became the first player to officially win both money titles, thanks to finishes of first, second, fourth, sixth and eighth in tournaments that were co-sanctioned by the PGA and Euro circuits.

Perhaps the greatest proof of a unified tour, though, occurred this season, as a player barely old enough to swing a club when Greg Norman’s idea was first hatched has followed Donald as the second consecutive winner of both major money titles, accomplishing the feat in his own unique way.

By all accounts, Rory McIlroy enjoyed a magnificent PGA Tour campaign. He won four titles, including the PGA Championship, Stateside – more than any other player – and finished in the top 10 in 10 of the 15 events he played in this country, all of which makes him the odds-on favorite to capture Player of the Year honors.

His record in all other parts of the world this year isn’t quite so exceptional. In seven European Tour starts outside of the United States – and yes, if that sounds like a surprisingly small number, you’re right – he owns two runner-up results and three other top-10s. Nothing to sneeze at until you consider what he’s already wrought on that tour.

With two events left on his schedule, McIlroy has already clinched the European money title. He’s done so without ever winning a single tournament that was endemic to the circuit, which sounds like an answer to the riddle: How can a golfer win despite never winning?

If that’s not enough, had McIlroy been an official member of either the Asian Tour or Sunshine Tour, he would have clinched those money titles, too.

Much like consternation over the trials and tribulations of the Official World Golf Ranking, there’s no one to blame here. It’s simple math. Nobody awarded the 23-year-old such lofty honors because they like his smile or they’re trying to woo him to a certain equipment manufacturer. He achieved them because when the numbers were tallied, his name stood above all others.

“Winning a second major already made it a fabulous season,” McIlroy said recently, “but then to follow Luke Donald in becoming No. 1 in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous season. I set myself a number of ambitious goals at the start of the year, and to have ticked so many of the boxes feels great.” 

Call him a paper champion and you’ll be correct – at least in the rationale that money is printed on paper. It will be interesting to see whether McIlroy’s peers agree with the statistical assertion that he is Europe’s best player this year. Branden Grace won four events unique to that tour, which in every conceivable way should trump a single victory on the remote shores of South Carolina.

The real message here, though, is that the game’s highest level has made the gradual yet swift transition to being an inclusive World Tour, with players able to attain certain honors and status thousands of miles from their home tour.

This shouldn’t be perceived as news, but the process in which Rory blitzed through the U.S. and therefore bullied his way to the top of the European standings may serve as the latest and greatest proof that an idea spawned once upon a time has come to fruition.

And for the newly crowned King McIlroy, it has a very happy ending.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.