The ultimate wrist, reward shot

By Jason SobelAugust 12, 2011, 12:29 am

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – It wasn’t the smartest decision. It wasn’t the most cautious decision. And as we witnessed in the aftermath, it certainly wasn’t the right decision.

That’s exactly why we should applaud the hubris that Rory McIlroy displayed on Thursday.

With his ball resting behind a root on the left side of Atlanta Athletic Club's third hole, McIlroy faced a quandary that had no positive potential outcomes. He could take a drop, suffer a penalty stroke and extricate himself from danger. He could cautiously punch it back into the fairway. Or he could ignore the lingering hazard and take a mighty lash at the ball.

He chose door No. 3. How cool is that?

The 22-year-old reigning U.S. Open champion will be criticized and scolded should the result hinder his short-term progress. He barely advanced the ball, but that wasn't the worst part. The impact of his club striking the root forced him to injure his right wrist so badly that he was in physical pain throughout the remainder of the round and on multiple occasions pondered withdrawing from the tournament.

Instead, he gritted his teeth and not only toughed it out, but posted an even-par 70 that left him in a share of 24th place through one round at the 93rd PGA Championship.

This is the type of audacity we should encourage from the world’s best golfers. It was hardly a career-defining shot; no swing in the early part of an opening round ever is. It was, however, the type of shot that defines a player’s character.

So, too, was his choice to finish out the round. McIlroy didn’t come to this conclusion independently, of course – he consulted with trainers on multiple holes, iced his wrist and had it taped up to prevent further damage – but the resolution was all his own.

“They said, ‘It's your decision; if you want to play on and you feel comfortable doing that, but if not, there's no point in risking it,’” he later said. “It's the last major of the year. I've got, what, six or seven months to the Masters. So I might as well try and play through the pain and get it over and done with.

Those who find fault with McIlroy’s plan to hit the shot and continue playing are the same people who enjoy laying up and lag putting. They’re the same ones who still think Tiger Woods should have stayed home three years ago at Torrey Pines rather than playing through multiple leg injuries and winning one of the most dramatic tournaments in the game’s history.

Elite players aren’t just better than their peers because they hit the golf ball farther or putt it smoother. What separates these guys from the game’s hoi polloi is their propensity to attempt the extraordinary.

Think about it: If Arnold Palmer had found himself in a similar position 50 years ago, would he have chosen the safe route or hitched up his slacks, swung hard and hoped for the best? You’d better believe it was the latter – and it’s honorable that McIlroy made the same call.

“It was dangerous,” he explained. “I thought if I could make contact with the ball and just let the club go, I might get away with it. You know, in hindsight it would have been better to chip out sideways.”

Nobody is arguing that point in the wake of McIlroy’s injury. After shaking hands – lefthanded, of course – with playing partners Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel on the final green, then signing his scorecard and briefly speaking with reporters, he was whisked away to a nearby medical facility to have an MRI on his wrist, where he was found to have a strained tendon.

If there is either potential of risking further injury or he simply can’t play through the pain, McIlroy will likely withdraw from the tournament prior to his 8:35 a.m. tee time on Friday morning. The swing that produced such pain will be reviewed and replayed for weeks – if not months – as his decision to hit the shot is second-guessed from here to Holywood.

It shouldn’t be, though. This decision should be celebrated for its raw determination and guile. He should be cheered for trying a shot with his best intentions at heart, potential injury be damned.

After all, boring players take precautions. Safe players. Maybe even fearful players.

Superstars try things that may not always be smart or safe or right, but are special. What McIlroy attempted on Thursday qualifies as all of the above. If he can not only continue competing, but contends with a sore wrist this weekend, we’ll remember his performance not because of his ball-striking or putting, but because he showed guts.

And that’s exactly what separates him from so many other players.

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.