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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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.