McIlroy focused on the finish line

By Randall MellJune 17, 2011, 12:34 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Scars? What scars?

Rory McIlroy’s resilient spirit came through in his major championship return Thursday at the U.S. Open.

It came through in the way he attacked Congressional Country Club with impunity, in the way he split fairways, knocked down flagsticks and holed one putt after another.

It came through in a 6-under-par 65 that’s good for a three-shot lead.

It especially came through in the way he made the memory of his collapse at the Masters two months ago seem like ancient history.

“I don’t know if it says I have a short memory,” McIlroy said. “But I took the experience from Augusta, and I learned a lot from it.”

What did he learn?

“Mostly, just from the Sunday, just being so tentative and trying to keep ahead of the field instead of playing a free-flowing game like I usually do,” McIlroy said. “Going back to Augusta, the first three days, I played smartly but aggressively to my targets. And then going into Sunday, I started to play defensively, and that’s when things can go wrong.”

McIlroy attacked Congressional in such effortless fashion he made playing the U.S. Open look easy.

“The game is easy when you hit it straight and make every putt,” Phil Mickelson said.

Watching McIlroy march down the middle of fairways while Mickelson and Dustin Johnson struggled in the same grouping made McIlroy’s surgical precision all that more impressive. Mickelson was all over the place, scrambling to a 74. Johnson was just as wild with a 75.

As sharp as McIlroy looked, he isn’t taking anything for granted. He isn’t assuming anything. At 22, he’s learned first-round success guarantees nothing. He led or shared the lead in the first three rounds of The Masters this year before unraveling with that closing 80. He also led the British Open at St. Andrews with a 63 after the first round last summer before stumbling to an 80 in the second round.

“I know more than anyone else that a good start is nice, but there’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said.

If McIlroy’s swing remains as sharp as it was in the first round, it won’t seem so long to the finish line. He looked unbeatable. He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation. He didn’t make a bogey.

His Masters collapse aside, McIlroy’s showing an impressive ability to attack in majors. The kid can go seriously low.

McIlroy has led or shared the lead at some point in the last four majors. He’s led or shared the lead in four of the last five major championship rounds. In 37 rounds in majors, McIlroy has now shot in the 60s a staggering 11 times.

With his swing honed Thursday, McIlroy found himself as far from the memory of his Masters’ collapse as you could get in this first round. He was actually thinking about breaking major championship records. He was thinking about shooting the first 62 in a major.

“I played really good [at St. Andrews], had a real chance of shooting the lowest round ever in a major,” McIlroy said. “I felt as if today I had a chance to do that as well. It did slip into my mind.”

Back at the Memorial two weeks ago, McIlroy got some inspiration from Jack Nicklaus, who cornered McIlroy after the pre-tournament clinic there.

“He said he would kick my backside,” McIlroy said.

Of course, it was playful banter, and McIlroy got into the spirit of it after his good play Thursday.

“Yeah, he didn’t really threaten to beat me up,” McIlroy said. “But I think I could take him now. He’s a little old.”

As McIlroy said, there’s a long way to go, but this lad from Northern Ireland is showing he’s got a game that’s special under major championship conditions. The question remains whether it’s ready for a special final round, whether it’s ready to win his first major.

Nicklaus thinks so.

“He said to me, `I’m expecting big things from you,’” McIlroy said.

We’re all waiting to see if McIlroy delivers something large on Sunday.

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Casey: RC teams planning Lyle, Celia tributes

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2018, 3:58 pm

ATLANTA – Throughout this season Paul Casey has been in regular contact with European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, with most communication being via text messages that the Englishman said always included an eclectic range of emojis.

But when the Dane decided to make Casey one of his four captain’s picks, it had to be a phone call.

“He called on Monday (Sept. 3). I was in the parking garage at the Philadelphia Marriott,” Casey said this week at the Tour Championship. “It was rewarding, emotional, so many things.”

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Since being named to the team, Casey said his communication with Bjorn and the other members of the European team has been via WhatsApp, which allows the team to share ideas and finalize plans for next week’s matches. Casey said the exchanges have mainly featured good-natured teasing and a some silly pictures, with a few serious moments.

The European team, in coordination with the U.S. team, is planning to honor Jarrod Lyle, a former PGA Tour player who died last month following his third bout with leukemia, next Thursday in France. There is a public memorial service planned for Lyle on Thursday in Australia.

Casey also said the team is coordinating a plan to also honor Celia Barquín Arozamena, a top college player from Spain who was murdered this week in Iowa.

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Another 59: Nesbitt makes PGA Tour Latinoamerica history

By Nick MentaSeptember 22, 2018, 3:17 pm

For the second time in as many days, the golf world witnessed a professional sub-60.

Drew Nesbitt fired a 12-under 59 on Saturday in the second round of PGA Tour Latinoamerica's Brazil Open.

Nesbitt's round included a bogey, eight pars, five birdies, and four eagles - three of which came on one nine and one of which was an ace at the par-3 second, his 11th hole of the day.

The Canadian closed with three straight birdies, including this one at the ninth, to record the first 59 in the tour's history.

Perhaps more impressive than breaking 60 was that Nesbitt found a way overnight to shave 20 strokes off his first-round 79.

"I knew I had to shoot a low round if I was going to make the cut," he said. "The first hole of the day, I happened to knock it in from 100 yards and get my day started pretty quickly. ...

"My goal, obviously, was just to make the cut. To do it shooting 59 was absolutely incredible. You can't really ask for anything more than that."

With rounds of 79-59 for a 4-under-138 total, Nesbitt sits in a tie for 32nd through two rounds, 10 off the lead held by 2015 champ Alexandre Rocha.

"This is a golfer's dream, to shoot a sub-60 round and to do it in a tourmament and to do on this tour especially makes it that much more special," he said.

On Friday, Oliver Fisher became the first player in history to break 60 on the European Tour with a 12-under 59 at the Portugal Masters.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods is in the final group on Saturday at the Tour Championship. He's out at 2:30 p.m. ET with Justin Rose and we're tracking him.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.