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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Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 3:30 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”