McIlroy's Open win feels like milestone moment

By Jason SobelJuly 22, 2014, 4:45 pm

It’s a funny thing, this business of defining time periods by separate eras. We never quite know when one is ending and the next is beginning – not while that transition is happening, at least. There is no specific date on the calendar, no handy color-coded chart to help us immediately understand exactly what we’re witnessing at the time.

Dinosaurs didn’t just show up on earth one day and declare it the Jurassic period; more recently, historians can’t pinpoint one singular action that ended the Renaissance.

And in a transition of slightly less global significance, we might not know for years whether Sunday afternoon, when the final putt of the Open Championship was tapped into the final hole, was the exact moment when the golf world shifted from the Tiger Woods Era to the Rory McIlroy Era.

It sure felt that way, though.

Ultimately, history will decide if McIlroy’s third career major victory officially ushered us into this new era in the game. But in a week where Woods – who won the last time this tournament was held at Hoylake – finished 68 spots behind his youthful pal, this one appears earmarked as a milestone moment.

Call it a changing of the guard or a passing of the torch or a textbook example of out with the old and in with the new, but the facts clearly outweigh any hyperbole.

In the time since Woods’ last major victory, McIlroy has three of ‘em. As Woods continues to slide down the world ranking, McIlroy continues to climb. With Woods seemingly growing more frustrated with his on-course performance, McIlroy appears unburdened by any demons from his past.

Years from now, we’ll very well look back on this one in the same manner that we review the 1960 U.S. Open. In a tournament that is often considered a crossroads of the generational gap, Ben Hogan was upstaged by 30-year-old Arnold Palmer defeating 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus by two strokes. Hogan would never again win a professional tournament.

This latest transition period, however, likely won’t prompt such a dramatic fade, just as it won’t provoke the sudden spike that occurred when Woods won the 1997 Masters. He will win again – and he could very well win multiple major championships from the age of 38 and beyond. Instead, this has a more similar feel to the latter part of the career of the man Woods is chasing.

Nicklaus was 38 when he won his 15th major title – one more than Woods owns now. That was in 1978, but two years and exactly zero wins later, the Jack Nicklaus Era had given way to one led by young upstarts like Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. When the Golden Bear was able to win the 1980 U.S. Open and follow it with a PGA Championship two months later, he was impinging on the next generation’s era rather than extending his own. By the time he won his 18th and final major at the 1986 Masters, his personal era was long a thing of the past.

Woods prides himself on being a golf historian and so he knows all of this already. He understands that one generation giving way to the next doesn’t necessarily mean the older players will be shut out from ever winning again.

Woods also realizes that although McIlroy’s early accomplishments might not be level with those from the early part of his own career, they are eerily reminiscent. The accolades, at least, if not the consistency.

“The way he plays is pretty aggressively,” Woods analyzed Sunday, comparing him favorably with Phil Mickelson. “When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It's one or the other.”

Rory joined Jack and Tiger as the only players in the Masters era with three major titles by the age of 25. He’s now just a green jacket away from becoming the sixth player in history to win the career grand slam, all of which should feed into this transition period.

While the festivities at Augusta National have often been hailed as Tigermania, the circus will appear more like Rorymania next April, when he attempts to join that exclusive club.

If that’s not enough to sound the alarms of change, then try this: Mickelson, with five major titles and more than three dozen other PGA Tour wins, is on the short list of the greatest players of all-time. He’s certainly inside the top 15, arguably amongst the top 12, pushing toward the top 10.

Well, McIlroy owns three majors at an age that’s eight years younger than Mickelson when he won his first.

That’s just another on a long list of reasons why the transition to a new era felt complete on Sunday. It's not an exaggeration to state that golf has apparently entered a new time period. Every generation has eventually succumbed to the next one, but rarely has that process taken place in such an abrupt manner.

History will tell us whether that’s true. Years from now, though, don’t be surprised if we look back on these days as the beginning of what’s forever remembered as the Rory McIlroy Era.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.