Now McIlroy can begin healing process

By John FeinsteinMay 21, 2014, 9:00 pm

The only thing harder than figuring out how to deal with love is figuring out how to deal with love with the whole world watching.

In all, Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki did a pretty good job.

Both are very public figures. Both have been ranked No. 1 in the world: McIlroy in golf, Wozniacki in tennis. Both knew they were going to be subjected to constant public scrutiny from the minute they started dating three years ago. He was 22, she was just turning 20. She had already been No. 1 in her world; he was on his way to that ranking in his.

For a while it was fairy-tale stuff. But real life isn’t a fairy tale. Only on rare occasions do people live happily ever after. Which is why, after a year of rumored break-ups and an announced engagement, it wasn’t shocking when McIlroy said Wednesday that there would be no wedding.

“The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails,” he said in a statement.

A few hours later, McIlroy showed up, as scheduled, for his pre-tournament news conference at the BMW PGA Championship and answered questions awkwardly and sadly for a few minutes. There’s little doubt that he’s torn up by the decision. There’s also little doubt that he gave it a great deal of thought.

The break-up, five months after the engagement, appears to the culmination of a turbulent 18 months in the life of a young athlete who is learning on the job how to deal with stardom.

Late in 2012, McIlroy appeared to have everything, in what had already been a remarkable career and life, under control. He had just won his second major title – each by eight shots – and had played on a winning Ryder Cup team for the second time. He was the No. 1-ranked player in the world and he was dating a glamorous tennis player who – like him – seemed comfortable in the spotlight.

McIlroy calls off engagement to Wozniacki

And then, very quickly, things began to slide. He fired his agent, the experienced Chubby Chandler, and replaced him with a group that was as new to the ways of celebrity as Chandler was an old hand at them. Almost instantly the new agents made a much-ballyhooed deal with Nike, which was looking for a new young golf superstar to add to its stable with Tiger Woods’ golf future appearing uncertain.

McIlroy took the money and his game went south almost before the ink on the contract was dry. He was certainly not the first golfer to change equipment in return for mega-dollars or the first to do it and struggle with his game. But he did it while he was the No. 1 player in the world.

For the first time in his life, McIlroy began to make mistakes off the course. The player who had handled a Sunday meltdown at Augusta with extraordinary grace walked off the golf course during the second round of the Honda Classic because he was embarrassed by and frustrated with his game. His new handlers made it worse by claiming he had a toothache. McIlroy later admitted the toothache had nothing to do with the walk-off but the memory of the botched handling of a bad situation lingered.

Then came another change of agents and threatened lawsuits followed by rumors that he and Wozniacki were breaking up. McIlroy’s golf game was nowhere to be found all summer. By the time he reached the PGA Championship in August he was being asked if he thought he had been unfairly pilloried by the media in Europe.

“That’s for you guys to decide, not me,” he said, clearly upset with what had been said and written, but smart enough to know that at least some of it was true.

When he won at the end of the year in Australia it appeared things were turning back around. Then came the announcement of his engagement to Wozniacki, which ended the break-up rumors. So much for those ready to write him off at 24 as a two-(major)-hit wonder.

He has played well in fits and starts in 2014. He appeared on his way to winning at the Honda – which would have represented a wonderful turnaround one year after tooth-gate - but collapsed en route to the Sunday finish line, losing in a playoff. More recently, he has become the king of the backdoor top 10 – which isn’t bad for the wallet but is hardly what a player with hall-of-fame potential is looking to achieve.

He thought he’d found something with his putter on the last day at the Masters. No, not yet.

We may now know the reason for the inconsistency on the golf course: confusion off of it. The greatest relationship in the world is difficult. Ask any couple that’s been married for 40 or 50 years if it’s been all seashells and balloons and watch them react.

There’s no reason to assign blame when an engagement is broken off. Better, in fact, for a couple to realize that marriage isn’t going to work before all the complications that come with marriage come into play. Most of us aren’t ready to be married in our 20s. Or our 30s, for that matter.

McIlroy is more comfortable now with his equipment. He is still searching for consistency with his putter but he was doing the same thing when he was ranked No. 1. He may be closer to stability with his management team.

All those issues pale, though, in comparison to feeling as if something is wrong with your personal life. The worst thing anyone can deal with is a problem regarding one of your children. The second-worst is a problem with your spouse or loved one. Clearly, McIlroy has been trying to figure out what is the best thing for him and for Wozniacki for a while now. The fact that he would decide it was time to cut the cord only days after wedding invitations were sent out makes it seem this was a decision he agonized about.

Chances are, he won’t put it behind him right away. He said Wednesday that he looked forward to escaping when he gets between the ropes and focusing just on golf. That won’t be easy.

But in time, it will get easier. And then, maybe in the not-too-distant future, we may again see the Rory McIlroy who lit up his sport in 2011 and 2012. It would be a welcome sight. 

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

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Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

“I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

“I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

“I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

“Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

“I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”

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Bradley leads Dick's Sporting Goods Open into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 12:28 am

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Michael Bradley shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the PGA Tour Champions' Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

The 52-year-old Bradley had five birdies and a bogey in the rain-delayed round to reach 11-under 133 at En-Joie Golf Club. A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, he's seeking his first victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Bart Bryant and Marco Dawson were tied for second. Bryant, the 2013 winner at En-Joie for his lone Champions title, had a 67. Dawson shot 70.

Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

Wes Short Jr. (65), Clark Dennis (70) and Tom Gillis (69) were 9 under, and Kenny Perry (69) was 7 under with first-round leader Doug Garwood (73), Mark Calcavecchia (69), Woody Austin (71), Jerry Haas (68) and Scott Parel (68). Perry won the 3M Championship two weeks ago in Minnesota.

Bernard Langer, the 2014 winner, was 5 under after a 69. Defending champion Scott McCarron had a 71 to get to 1 under. John Daly, the winner of the PGA Tour's 1992 B.C. Open at En-Joie, was 6 over after rounds of 73 and 77.

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Snedeker still in front on Day 3 of suspended Wyndham

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 11:21 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Brandt Snedeker held a three-stroke lead Saturday in the Wyndham Championship when the third round was suspended because of severe weather.

Snedeker was 16 under for the tournament with 11 holes left in the round at the final event of the PGA Tour's regular season.

Brian Gay was 13 under through 12 holes, and Trey Mullinax, Keith Mitchell, C.T. Pan and D.A. Points were another stroke back at varying stages of their rounds.

Thirty players were still on the course when play was halted during the mid-afternoon with thunder booming and a threat of lightning. After a 3-hour, 23-minute delay, organizers chose to hold things up overnight and resume the round at 8 a.m. Sunday.

When things resume, Snedeker - who opened with a 59 to become the first Tour player this year and just the 10th ever to break 60 - will look to keep himself in position to contend for his ninth victory on Tour and his first since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list

The 2012 FedEx Cup champion won the tournament in 2007, the year before it moved across town to par-70 Sedgefield Country Club.

Snedeker's final 11 holes of the round could wind up being telling: In seven of the 10 previous years since the tournament's move to this course, the third-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win.

And every leader who finished the third round here at 16 under or better has wound up winning, including Henrik Stenson (16 under) last year and Si Woo Kim (18 under) in 2016.

Snedeker started the day off strong, rolling in a 60-foot chip for birdie on the par-4 second hole, then pushed his lead to three strokes with a birdie on No. 5 that moved him to 16 under. But after he sank a short par putt on the seventh, thunder boomed and the horn sounded to stop play.

Gay was 12 holes into a second consecutive strong round when the delay struck. After shooting a 63 in the second round, he had four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. He placed his 200-yard second shot 10 feet from the flagstick and sank the putt.