The Rory McIlroy era?

By Jason SobelJune 20, 2011, 3:10 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Sixty-five million years ago, when the planet morphed from the Mesozoic Era into the next time period, there was no defining moment. No big bang. No singular conflict. No writer’s guild of the stegosaurus – yes, those were the ones with small brains – penning columns in the dirt declaring such a transition.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, the saying goes – and it doesn’t get much more historical than the Age of Dinosaurs. The primitive beasts didn’t suddenly decide to become extinct one fateful day. It took years for this progression to advance to the point where they no longer roamed the earth.

What does all of this have to do with golf? Well, plenty.

Following his runaway victory at the 111th U.S. Open Championship, many have been quick to proclaim this new interval the Rory McIlroy Era.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

Lest we’re doomed to repeat history – which at this point in the analogy would require pterodactyls swooping down on future major championship venues – we should learn that eras aren’t born overnight. They develop gradually over time, a series of occurrences leading to a transformation in the way things are perceived.

No big bang. No singular conflict.

And just as the small-brained dinosaurs failed to declare certain transitions around them, we should hold off on pronouncing the game’s most recent result as a definitive changing of the guard.

If that sounds pessimistic based on Rory’s romp through the field at Congressional Country Club this week, it’s understandable. After all, it was difficult to watch McIlroy shoot 65-66-68-69 en route to breaking a dozen records and not believe that he is not only the future of golf, but the game’s present, too.

At the ripe old age of 22, the Northern Ireland native displayed a performance we haven’t witnessed since the heyday of Tiger Woods, the last professional golfer to have a so-called era named after him. He averaged 310 yards per drive. Found 64 percent of the fairways. Hit 86 percent of the greens in regulation. Posted one eagle and 19 birdies. Triumphed by eight strokes.

It was the type of performance that makes us think he may never lose again, that it’s McIlroy – not Woods – who is the obvious successor to Jack Nicklaus’ crown as the reigning king of major victories. It was enough to crank the hype machine to 11 and rain down the hyperbole.

Even his fellow competitors were in on the act.

“If you’re going to talk about someone challenging Jack’s record,' said three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, “he’s your man.”

“Nothing this kid does ever surprises me,” said last year’s U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, also from Northern Ireland and a friend of McIlroy. “He's the best player I've ever seen. I didn't have a chance to play with Tiger when he was in his real pomp, and this guy is the best I've ever seen – simple as that. He's great for golf. He's a breath of fresh air for the game and perhaps we're ready for golf's next superstar and maybe Rory is it.”

Pardon my Irish, but “de reir a cheile a thogtar na caisleain” – which translates as “it takes time to build castles.”

One week ago, many were proclaiming this to be the Era of Parity. The year’s second major was widely believed to be among the most wide open in recent memory, with so many players seemingly having a chance to claim the hardware.

And why not? In the first half of this season, only two players had claimed multiple PGA Tour titles and neither more than twice. Over the past calendar year, the major champions list included four first-time winners. The notion of one man dominating the game was as foreign as the players claiming those trophies.

That doesn’t change in four days.

It especially doesn’t change when a player grabs just his third career professional victory. Of McIlroy’s other two, one came two years ago in Dubai, when a five-shot lead with nine holes to play turned into a one-stroke win only when he saved par from a greenside bunker on the final hole. The second came last year in Charlotte when he made the cut on the number, then flew under the radar – at mach speed, no less – to come from behind and win the title.

There’s no denying what McIlroy accomplished at the U.S. Open was the stuff of genius. Let’s keep it in perspective, though. Just 11 months ago, Louis Oosthuizen blitzed the Open Championship field at St. Andrews, winning by just one fewer shot than Rory did at Congressional this week. While hailed in headlines as “King Louis,” he barely received his 15 minutes of fame, let alone his own era.

Yes, McIlroy has all the tools to become one of the greats, but until he begins dominating like this on a regular basis, it’s premature to anoint the new world No. 4 as the game’s lone shining star. And that's OK. At an age when most young people are either ferociously clicking through postings or joyfully finding themselves while backpacking through Europe, he’s on top of the golf world.

For now.

Someday we may indeed look back on his historic performance at the U.S. Open as the beginning of his reign, just as we reminisce over Woods’ initial major win at the 1997 Masters as the start of a legendary run through the record books.

Today is not that day, though. Let’s enjoy what the newest major champion accomplished, but much like our planet’s transition 65 million years ago, golf’s advancement to the Rory McIlroy Era should be a gradual process.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”