McIlroy, Fowler look to build confidence on road to Augusta

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2016, 9:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – It’s mad science.

Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are teeing it up at the Honda Classic this week knowing they have six weeks to get ready for the Masters and a chance to revel in breakthroughs that will put them at the center of the golf universe.

McIlroy is aiming to win a green jacket to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only winners of the career Grand Slam in professional golf.

Fowler is aiming to break through and win his first major.

They’re both aiming to push their way past world No. 1 Jordan Spieth and No. 2 Jason Day, who owned the major championship stages last year. Spieth and Day elevated their status with dynamic performances in the majors.

Spieth, who won the Masters and U.S. Open last year, and Day, who beat Spieth in a head-to-head duel to win the PGA Championship, aren’t playing the Honda Classic this week. That puts the spotlight on world No. 3 McIlroy and No. 5 Fowler and the work they’re doing to try to make a bold opening statement in the year’s first major.

“A major is my main goal right now going forward,” Fowler said. “I definitely feel like I’m ready. I know I can win in those situations, but we only get four chances a year. If you can get your game to peak at those right times ...”

How do you prepare to win a major championship? How do you prepare to peak at the right time?

The Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

There is no magic formula for preparing for majors, but there is a magic elixir.

McIlroy and Fowler may have different plans to get ready for the Masters, but they’re seeking the same elixir. They’re seeking to build as much confidence as they can muster before heading down Magnolia Lane.

How much is the Masters on their minds this week?

“I feel like it’s disrespectful to the individual tournament if you’re not thinking 100 percent on the tournament you’re playing in,” McIlroy said after his Honda Classic pro-am round on Wednesday. “I’m trying to play this golf course and win this tournament, but it’s hard to say it’s not on my mind.”

Winning is as close to a magic formula as there is in preparing for a major because there’s so much confidence that comes with it.

And how is McIlroy’s and Fowler’s confidence coming to PGA National?

They’re both coming off disappointments in their last starts, but they both say they’re feeling good about where their games are.

Fowler lost to Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff in his last start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open three weeks ago. Fowler squandered a two-shot lead with two holes to go and left in tears thinking about the lost opportunity to win in front of his grandfather.

Did it shake his confidence?

“I’m fine,” Fowler said. “It’s obviously one I wanted to get, felt like I was in a great position to get  it, but I’ve been playing well, all through last summer, through the fall.”

Fowler has won four times in his last 21 starts.

McIlroy won four times last year despite missing two months last summer with an ankle injury. He gave himself a chance to win in his last start Sunday at the Northern Trust Open, tying for the early lead before stumbling home with a 75. He opened this year with a T-3 finish at Abu Dhabi and a T-6 at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Where does McIlroy see his game at today?

“You always want to win,” McIlroy said. “Progress is winning and seeing how you perform under pressure. But at the same time, progress is how you’re feeling with your game, if you feel like you can see improvements ...

“I feel this year, I’ve made some good strides forward. I feel like my game’s there. That’s the great thing about golf. This stretch we’ve got coming, there’s always next week. If you do stumble, there’s the next week to pick yourself back up.”

McIlroy’s plan for the Masters calls for a lot of competition. Counting this week, he’ll play four times before going to Augusta National. He’ll play the WGC-Cadillac, Bay Hill and the WGC-Dell Match Play.

Fowler? He will play the two WGC events but isn’t sure about Bay Hill.

“That’s up in the air,” Fowler said. “Going into Augusta, really, the focus these next two weeks is to see where the game is at and really see what we need to work on. My main focus is really just making sure I’m rested and going to be ready to tee it up Thursday in Augusta.”

Preferably, with confidence high.

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”