Newsmaker of the Year No. 7: Rory McIlroy

By Jason SobelDecember 17, 2013, 1:30 pm

Rory McIlroy’s year was supposed to start with a bang. That was the plan, at least.

There was smoke, that’s for sure – and lots of it. A planetarium-quality laser lights show. Some sort of massive hologram of his likeness. A video montage of his prior accomplishments.

But a bang? No, there was no bang to start. In fact, no bang ever really took place.

Ranked No. 1 in the world and fresh off a season in which he was voted Player of the Year on both the PGA and European tours, McIlroy was introduced on Jan. 14 as the newest megastar in Nike’s estimable stable at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi amidst a presentation usually left for Justin Bieber’s opening dance routine or the home team introductions before an NBA Finals game. Apparently that’s what happens when you sign a deal for a reported $250 million, even though he punctuated the festivities by maintaining with a straight face, “I don’t play golf for money.”

Maybe it was all too much for him. Maybe the down-to-earth kid from a working-class upbringing in Northern Ireland felt too much pressure trying to live up to such hyped expectations. Or maybe his struggles were more of the technical variety. Maybe his new equipment required a lengthier adjustment period than anyone had realized. Maybe his swing wasn’t as locked in as the previous year. Or maybe there were issues in his love life. Or changing his management team for a second time was getting to him. Or the impending decision to pick a country to represent in the upcoming Olympic Games held him back. Maybe it was none of the above.

The smart money contends it was some combination of each of these things that led to his comparatively poor performance. If McIlroy himself knows, he isn’t saying – although that would be contradictory to his personality, which leaves him open and honest, almost to a fault.

What we do know is that unlike most of’s 2013 newsmakers, McIlroy is on this list more for what he didn’t accomplish than what he did.

Rory McIlroy: Articles, photos and videos

That’s not to suggest his year was some sort of abject failure. In 25 worldwide starts, he compiled nine top-10s and a victory, though it took him until his 24th start to claim the latter. He missed the cut at The Open Championship, but finished T-25 at the Masters, T-41 at the U.S. Open and T-8 at the PGA Championship, hardly embarrassing results at the year’s most important tournaments. And he only dropped five spots in the Official World Golf Ranking, checking into the year at No. 1, but checking out at a still-impressive sixth.

Offer these numbers to most professional golfers, even some of the game’s elite talents, and they might literally take the money and run, confident in the knowledge that it might not have been a great year, but it was certainly good enough.

However, for a 24-year-old with two major titles won by eight-stroke margins already to his credit, it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even close. But that’s not the whole story, either. McIlroy’s disappointing year was less about the results and more about the precipitous journey. Just days after that literal display of smoke and mirrors, with an advertising campaign opposite fellow swooshster Tiger Woods gaining international attention, he missed the cut in his first start. The relationship with Nike got off to such a rocky start that he switched back to his old Scotty Cameron putter – on his second day of competition after the announcement.

A month later, competing at the Honda Classic near his adopted home of Jupiter, Fla., he was already 7 over playing the ninth hole of his second round when he walked straight off the course and into the adjacent parking lot. Before speeding away, he told reporters, “I’m not in a good place mentally, you know?” Less than an hour afterward, the official reason listed for his withdrawal was an aching wisdom tooth.

If that was the nadir of the drama which seemed to follow him throughout the year, then his on-course apex finally crested on the first day of December. Trailing by a stroke entering the Australian Open’s final hole, McIlroy watched playing partner Adam Scott post bogey, then jarred a 15-foot birdie putt of his own to clinch a come-from-behind victory.

In a year when he made bigger news for what he didn’t accomplish than what he did, McIlroy’s body language told the story of a journey that didn’t start with a bang. It told the story of a young man competing under a global microscope, flushed with lofty expectations. The ball rolled into the cup and the newest champion didn’t holler. He didn’t pump his fist. He didn’t even smile.

He exhaled.

More Newsmakers in 2013:

Newsmaker of the Year, No 8: Henrik Stenson

Newsmaker of the Year, No 9: Jordan Spieth

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 4:00 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play the winner of the Kiradech Aphibarnrat/Charles Howell III match in the quarterfinals.  

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play the winner of the Sergio Garcia/Kyle Stanley match in the quarterfinals.  

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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.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

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.