Hawk's Nest: Rough times for Rory McIlroy

By John HawkinsJuly 1, 2013, 12:57 pm

A lot of serious golf fans don’t like a weepy champion, so when Bill Haas came down with a case of the man sobs after winning the AT&T National, the anti-criers had yet another reason to go kick the dog. This wasn’t a full-blown, Steve Strickeresque breakdown, mind you, but Haas, who recently became a father for the first time, was draped in emotion within 30 seconds after holing out on the 18th green.

Perhaps David Feherty should bring a box of Kleenex to the post-round interviews. My guess is that most female viewers enjoy seeing tears in a guy’s eyes – and that most men consider it a misdemeanor punishable by fine or trophy confiscation. Worse than jaywalking, not quite as bad as selling military secrets to a foreign government.

I am not one of those insensitive males. In fact, I am a closet-case softie who can’t watch “Miracle” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” without bawling like an unfed infant. My boy Jeff Rude likes to say that Ben Crenshaw has been known to cry at supermarket openings, and indeed, Ben’s heart spent more time on his sleeve than in his chest.

Since I’m still searching for my first PGA Tour victory, I’m not sure how I’d react, but I doubt I’d start crying until Uncle Sam took his share of the winner’s check. Supermarkets don’t get me, but a video montage of American soldiers returning from Afghanistan to surprise their wives and kids? Gotta watch that by myself.


NOBODY ON MY side of town has been more forgiving of Rory McIlroy’s lousy play this season, but after a missed cut at The Irish Open, his admission of “feeling a bit lost” and lingering equipment issues with a company paying him a reported $250 million over the next 10 years, it’s time to dial 911 and have the ambulance take us directly to the office of Dr. Perspective.

First and foremost, McIlroy is 24 years old. Fame and fortune didn’t exactly blindside him, but the reverberations of success take a kid out of his routine, altering his schedule to the point where practice time is compromised, if not deprioritized. Add the globetrotting, tennis-playing girlfriend. The kid’s own trans-Atlantic work responsibilities. The Oregon-based clubmaker feeding him all that money.

Not all of this stuff happened at the same time, but fame and fortune have a way of magnifying change. The parameters that allowed you to become the world’s best golfer no longer exist. You hire someone to handle all the external factors, to mitigate the interference. In May, however, McIlroy parted ways with his management firm for the second time in 19 months.

Those duties have been assigned to friends and family members, turning the clearance back into interference. Just last week, McIlroy said he wasn’t comfortable with the specifications of his Nike driver, which is an odd thing to hear from a tour pro six months into a mega-money relationship. He added an event (Valero Texas Open) to his playing schedule right before the Masters, but that didn’t help. Now he’ll go almost three weeks without competing before teeing it up at the British Open.

My 10-year-old can go online and find a gaggle of stories applauding McIlroy’s strong work ethic, his mission to greatness, his enormous natural ability. Alas, nothing prepares you for life in the fishbowl. You can’t climb into a simulator and experience the minute-to-minute ramifications of being a superstar. You learn it all on the fly, usually on a private jet.

We’re talking about 1.4 strokes a day here – the difference in McIlroy’s stroke average from 2012 to 2013. One 8-footer that doesn’t go in plus one drive that bounces into the rough instead of stopping on the first cut. It’s not a lot, but at golf’s highest level, 1.4 is a gap of estimable proportions, leading to a tricky game of cause and effect that invariably prompts some to blame the new clubs.

Tiger Woods has won a ton of majors with Nike equipment. Lots of tour pros have played excellent golf while gripping products from the Swoosh Dynasty. Nobody makes bad stuff anymore, and besides, if McIlroy’s swing is so pure, shouldn’t he be able to shoot a 67 with a bag full of bunker rakes?

The kid ranked 156th on driving accuracy last year and won four times. He’s 89th this year and can’t get out of his own way. In the curious case of the Irish Lad Gone Bad, the only piece of malfunctioning equipment is the three-pound tangle between his ears. It’s hard enough to win golf tournaments when it’s your only focus. When life becomes one giant distraction, you start missing cuts on your native soil and using the word “suffocation” to describe the trip home.

He’ll be back, of course, but it may get worse before it gets better.


IT WAS LATE 1999, another mild afternoon at the season-ending Tour Championship in Houston, and Tiger Woods was putting. And putting. And putting. His girlfriend at the time, a young lady named Joanna Jagoda, was sitting on a brick partition adjacent to the practice green at Champions GC, reading a book while waiting for the dude to refine his stroke to the point where they could go have dinner.

I had a quick word with Tiger before heading to my car and finding a Radio Shack – laptop issues – and it took a while. Maybe 45 minutes on Route 1960 alone, another 15 minutes in the store, so I got back to Champions at least an hour later. Jagoda was still reading. Woods was still putting, and the seeds that would turn into the greatest season in golf history were being planted on a Saturday in October at a tournament Tiger would win the next day.

Payne Stewart’s death had cast a massive pall over the event; the field played 27 holes Thursday and Saturday so it could attend the funeral service in between. Tiger had to be tired, but he’d gone almost 2 ½ years before winning his second major title at the PGA Championship that August.

 Sergio Garcia was rocketing to stardom. David Duval had held the No. 1 spot in the world ranking before Woods reclaimed it at Medinah. After a lackluster 1998, Tiger was winning tournaments again – he came to Houston off back-to-back victories at Firestone and Disney and had won five times since early June. Still, his chief rivals were right there. He could rest later.

Before he became one of the world’s biggest rock stars, the Dude in the Red Shirt was a tireless worker, a really good golfer who never stopped trying to get better. Nothing got in the way. Nobody was going to stop him, not even a hungry girlfriend. To plant those seeds of greatness, you must follow Ben Hogan’s advice and dig it out of the dirt first.

Still listening, Rory?


AS HEARTILY AS I applaud the USGA’s plan to hold the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens on back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst next June, I wonder about the practicality of scaling back a golf course taken to such obvious extremes for the big boys a few days earlier. One of the biggest differences in the two levels of play is the ability to gauge proper speed on the greens.

The women leave far more putts 5 feet short or run them 6 feet past the hole than do the men. No venue will exacerbate this factor more than Pinehurst No. 2, home of the world’s most famous domed putting surfaces. I think back to 2005, when heat and stress left the greens close to unplayable seemingly overnight.

Ever wonder why Michael Campbell won? The golf course was utterly ridiculous on Sunday – neither guy in the final pairing (Olin Browne, Retief Goosen) broke 80. Every putt became an exercise in total precaution, and when you neutralize natural ability to that extent, something funky is bound to happen.

Here’s to hoping both gatherings turn into terrific tournaments, and that my friends in Far Hills overdose on common sense on all their preparatory trips to North Carolina.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

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With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

“It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

“So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

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Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

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Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner


News and notes

• All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

 Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

• That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.


Notable teams in the field 

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

 Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

 Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

 Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

 Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

 Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

 Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

 Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

 Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

 Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.