Double trouble: Rough start sends McIlroy to 73

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2015, 11:57 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – A search party of marshals and spectators at the Honda Classic could not find Rory McIlroy’s first tee shot in his first start of this PGA Tour season.

After watching heavy, gusting winds push his 2-iron right and into trouble, McIlroy bravely forced his way into the thick, native vegetation at PGA National, looking for his ball in places only snakes and possums get comfortable. He ended up having to jog all the way back to the tee box to re-tee.

A double bogey wasn’t exactly the way the world No. 1 envisioned starting the Tour season.

“The conditions, obviously, were very tricky from the start,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy made another double bogey at the fifth hole, pulling his tee shot there into a pond.

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In the end, though, McIlroy managed a smile after closing with a pair of birdies to shoot a 3-over-par 73.

“I feel like I salvaged something out of the round the last couple holes,” McIlroy said. “It was just a day to keep trying, not to give up, and know that anything around level or 1  or 2 over par still isn't out of it.”

Stepping up to the 16th tee, McIlroy was tied for 104th. With his little rally at the end, he walked away tied for 79th, eight shots off the lead.

“Wasn't quite what I wanted, but, hopefully, tomorrow morning we get calmer conditions and we're able to give ourselves a few more opportunities and make some birdies,” McIlroy said.

The winds were up right from day’s start, but they were toughest in the afternoon, with gusts up to 34 mph. Scores were on average more than a full shot higher in the afternoon.

McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, the featured afternoon grouping, got beat up by Mother Nature.

McIlroy’s 73 was the low round of the group. Johnson shot 77 and Koepka 78.

At one point, the threesome was collectively 20 over par.

“It was tough,” McIlroy said. “When nothing's going your way, and you don't really have anything to feed off, you don't see many good shots, and we're all struggling, it was a grind out there. We'll all go home and put our feet up tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”

With winds even affecting putts, McIlroy wasn’t beating himself up after the round.

“Not at all,” he said. “I'm coming off a three-week break, and tough conditions to come back out in.  I knew that my game is there. Today wasn't, obviously, what I wanted to start with, but you know, if I can get it into red numbers tomorrow, I'm right back in the tournament.”

McIlroy is making his first start since winning the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic almost a month ago. He teed it up this week on a tear that extends back into last summer, when he won the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship in consecutive starts. He has a victory and four second-place finishes in his last five starts.

There was something else McIlroy found to be upbeat about. His 73 was a shot better than he posted in the final round last year, when he couldn’t protect a 54-hole lead and lost in a playoff.

“So it’s a little bit of an accomplishment,” McIlroy cracked.

McIlroy won the Honda Classic three years ago, holding off a Sunday charge by Tiger Woods.

About that rough start Thursday, McIlroy said the wind fooled him. He wasn’t alone. Johnson also hit his opening tee shot over in the thick brush but was able to chip out.

“I felt like the wind was more into us, but once the ball, even Dustin's ball, once it got out there, the wind just took it to the right,” McIlroy said. “I was just trying to play a normal sort of straight shot there.”

Nothing was going straight in Thursday’s winds, until they started dying down near day’s end. McIlroy took advantage when they did late. He hit a 5-iron to 50 feet at the last hole.

“Two-putt and get out of there,” McIlroy said.

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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

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“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.