Time to Capital-ize

By John FeinsteinJune 17, 2011, 10:59 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – There has been a lot made the past few days about Rory McIlroy’s trip to Haiti last week, which is understandable. Upon his return, McIlroy spoke eloquently about how the devastation he saw shook him and made him think about how lucky he is to be living the life he is living.

And so, the oldest cliché in sports was put into play: McIlroy’s trip helped him put his meltdown on Sunday at Augusta into perspective.

No, it didn’t.

McIlroy already had plenty ofperspective. That was evident in the moments after he signed for an 80 on that April Sunday and finished the Masters in a tie for 15th place after leading by four shots going into the final round. At a moment when almost every golfer in the world would have bolted the grounds, he stayed and answered every question.

It was the most impressive post-collapse performance in golf since 1996, when Greg Norman blew a six-shot Sunday lead at Augusta and behaved with equal grace in the face of a humiliating defeat.

Of course Norman was 41 at the time and had been through the ups and downs that come with life in the professional golf fishbowl. McIlroy was not quite 22. Had he said, ‘not today fellas,’ – the way Dustin Johnson did after falling apart at Pebble Beach a year ago – no one would have blamed him.

On Tuesday, relaxing in the Congressional locker room after playing nine holes, McIlroy smiled when someone complimented him on the way he had handled himself at Augusta.

“I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say didn’t I?” he said with a smile. “It was a round of golf – a bad one. But that’s all it was, nothing more.”

Clearly, McIlroy believes that. And based on his stunning play for 36 holes this week, he wasn’t shaken by what happened to him. Athletes often claim that a collapse or a shocking defeat doesn’t really bother them much. Then, years later, they admit that they were never quite the same after that loss.

Arnold Palmer never won another major after blowing a seven-shot lead on the back nine on Sunday in 1966 at the Olympic Club and then losing an Open playoff to Billy Casper. Norman never won another major after the ’96 Masters. Although Tom Watson has had some extraordinary moments, he never won another major title after letting the lead get away to Seve Ballesteros in 1984 on the back nine at St. Andrews.

McIlroy’s collapse is probably more analogous to Watson’s 79 at Winged Foot in 1974 when Watson was 24. Watson learned from his loss and it appears that McIlroy did too. Of course there are still 36 holes to go in this U.S. Open and no one is writing McIroy’s Hall of Fame induction speech just yet.

Golf is too uncertain to start anointing 36-hole leaders as anything other than, well, a 36-hole leader.

But there are some things about McIlroy that are certain: He is as mature, bright, likeable as any young player the sport has seen in a long time. When someone asked McIlroy after his opening-round 65 about his ability to lead the next major after the Augustameltdown, he laughed and said, “I guess it shows that I have a very short memory.”

What really tells the tale about McIlroy is what other players say about him. When the Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in 1996, others were awed by him. They understood he was going to win and win often. But they didn’t necessarily like him.

Some of it was jealousy. Some was the simple fact that Woods rarely spent much time hanging out with anyone, except Isleworth neighbors Mark O’Meara and John Cook. Even they have always been kept at arm’s length.

There are plenty of reasons to be jealous of McIlroy. He isn’t Woods but he’s a huge talent who is already a millionaire many times over. His demeanor and smile make the girls sigh and the sponsors come running. He’s the son everyone would love to have.

So, here’s a small sampling of what players were saying about McIlroy – the person – on Friday.

Sergio Garcia, at 2 under par, nine shots behind McIlroy, smiled and said, “I really hope he can win.”

Brandt Snedeker, who is also 2 under said, “If he wins, it will be great for the game.”

That’s exactly right.

It isn’t because the game needs another great player with Woods’ career in limbo and Mickelson’s future uncertain. It’s because McIlroy has the ability to become a champion who won’t just be respected for his talent but will be genuinely liked because he’s likeable in every possible way.

If he continues to dominate this weekend there will be inevitable comparisons with Woods’ performance at Pebble Beach 11 years ago. That’s unfair. That tournament was the beginning of arguably the greatest streak in the history of golf.

McIlroy isn’t going to become the golfer that Woods became. But he’s also not going to become the person Woods became.

That’s not a comment on Woods’ personal problems. Long before any of that happened, Woods had little time to sign autographs, almost never stopped to talk after a poor round of golf and acted as if there was a conspiracy against him on rare occasions when he missed a key putt.

Right here at Congressional 14 years ago, he stormed off after an opening-round 74 and then showed up all smiles a day later after a 67 saying it was unfair that he was asked to talk when he wasn’t on the leaderboard. On the same day that Woods stalked off players like Mickelson, Norman, Davis Love and Fred Couples – all of whom shot a score equal or higher than Woods – talked to the media and stopped to sign autographs.

Woods was just 21 at the time, but that’s the same age McIlroy was on that April afternoon in Augusta two months ago.

Everyone connected to golf will be overjoyed if McIlroy leaves Congressional with the U.S. Open trophy in his possession.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.”