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McIlroy feeling right at home at Shinnecock Hills

By Randall MellJune 13, 2018, 7:40 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy has never been more at home on a U.S. Open venue.

That’s what you concluded listening to him as he made his final preparations before Thursday’s start at Shinnecock Hills.

It’s so familiar to him, this links-ish layout in the Hamptons. It’s almost as if he can whiff the Belfast Lough.

“It sort of reminds me of some of the courses from back home a little bit, the way the golf course has been playing,” McIlroy said.

The Ulsterman wants to get himself back on track in a U.S. Open, a major he won seven years ago but has struggled to get comfortable in the last couple years.

“It feels like it's been a while since I've been in the mix at this championship,” McIlroy said. “With how my game feels, hopefully I can do the right things over the first few days and put myself in a position to win another one.”


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McIlroy missed the cut at Oakmont in 2016 and again at Erin Hills in ’17, but this U.S. Open has been circled on his calendar for some time. Shinnecock Hills is a test that intrigues him. He likes the strategy required to penetrate its defenses.

The place earned his affection back when he first played it four years ago.

“I love the golf course,” McIlroy said.

One of the game’s premier power players, McIlroy won’t be in full attack mode at Shinnecock Hills, not with a certain finesse required to get at pins on greens that don’t play nearly as large as they look.

It’s a second shot course, but that second shot can’t be from the deep fescue.

“These greens are quite large, but they play a lot smaller than they actually are, just because of runoffs and the way they're designed,” McIlroy said. “I think I’ll adopt quite a conservative strategy off the tee.

“Even if you're leaving yourself back, and maybe hitting a couple of extra clubs into these greens, it's not such a bad thing. I'd rather be doing that than hacking my way out of the rough. So that's sort of my strategy this week.”

McIlroy is looking to win his fifth major, his first in four years, since winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, a links-ish layout on the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s been a good year already, a nice bounce back from his winless campaign in ’17. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but he also let an opportunity go with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam in April. Three strokes down going into the final round at the Masters, he shot 74.

That memory’s there for McIlroy and fans alike.

“My game feels good,” McIlroy said. “The first major I played well. I sort of struggled a little bit on Sunday. But I've got a win this year, which is great. I've gotten myself into contention quite a few times.”

Former world No. 1 and Golf Channel analyst David Duval believes it will take a secure frame of mind to win this U.S. Open.

“I think some of it is where he is mentally,” Duval said. “Is he in a good place? Is he calm and looking forward to the challenges and the hair pulling that Shinnecock can make players do?”

McIlroy answered that Wednesday, detailing in his news conference how he took last week off to come to this area and play some of the great courses on Long Island.

He said he did that more to have fun with friends than he did to get extra prep for the U.S. Open. He played National Golf Links, Friars Head and Garden City while also getting looks at Shinnecock Hills.

“It was more for fun,” McIlroy said. “I think it does put you in a different frame of mind. You're relaxed out there, and maybe that sort of bleeds into your mindset whenever you're here in a big championship.

“Obviously, there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you're going to play.”

McIlroy hopes to enjoy late Sunday the most this week.

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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.


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''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.


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“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.


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“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.


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“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.