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McIlroy trying to avoid distractions

By Randall MellFebruary 9, 2018, 2:10 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Rory McIlroy made a great save Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

It’s another testament to how quickly his game is coming back together.

He didn’t just erase his own mistakes at Spyglass Hill. He erased his father’s mistakes.

They may be laughing about what happened at the seventh hole for a long time, especially if it leads to something special on Sunday, when McIlroy would love to hoist the trophy in his first appearance in this event.

With the early morning sun low in the sky, McIlroy’s father stood aside his son at the seventh tee.

“There were a few shadows out there,” McIlroy said. “And as I was about to take my driver away, I saw his shadow move. So, I backed off it.”

Gerry McIlroy got a stern “stand still” from his son, and then he watched his boy lash a terrible drive “way right.” From a tough spot, his son then knocked his second shot in the water.

The father-son bucket-list trip wasn’t off to such a great start, but that’s where the good son was really good.

“I chipped in,” McIlroy said.

It was good for a birdie on McIlroy’s way to shooting 4-under-par 68, which moved him into early contention just three shots off the lead. The start gives him a chance to win in his PGA Tour debut this year.

It was a recovery shot the McIlroys won’t soon forget.

“You’re forgiven,” Rory told his dad.

This is McIlroy’s first appearance at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he would relish winning it after going winless last season. He would especially relish it with his father playing alongside him.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, photos and videos

“It’s awesome,” McIlroy said of teaming with his father. “We’ve had a blast the last few days.”

These pro-ams come with challenges, and McIlroy explained them after Thursday’s round. There’s the novelty of playing with an amateur, wanting that experience to be special, but there’s also the serious matter of wanting to hoist an important trophy.

McIlroy knows the challenges well, having played multiple times with his father in the Dunhill Links, a European Tour format akin to this week’s. Rory said the team aspect can detract from the individual quest. It’s a fine line when the intensity of one is different from the other, where a world-class player can lose an edge.

“This is a golf tournament, and there’s a lot of world-ranking points at stake,” McIlroy said. “So, I made a conscious effort this week to treat it as that.”

So Rory didn’t warm up next to his father Thursday morning, so he could “get my game head on.”

McIlroy said it worked.

The field is strong this week, and a victory would carry a lot of weight. The top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking are here with No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Jon Rahm and No. 3 Jordan Spieth all playing. A victory would be a boost to McIlroy’s bid to return to No. 1.

“I feel good,” McIlroy said. “I'm healthy and I'm able to practice. I'm able to do everything I want to do. I'm in a really good frame of mind and that helps, too.”

McIlroy, 28, a four-time major championship winner, struggled through a nagging rib injury most of last season. He fell outside the top 10 in the world and watched Justin Thomas join Johnson and Spieth in the limelight that was once mostly his.

With a tie for third at the Abu Dhabi Championship in his first start this year, and a second-place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic a week later, McIlroy is feeling good about his bid to return to top form.

Former No. 1 Jason Day knows what that could mean.

“He's just explosive,” Day said. “Not only explosive off the tee, and with his iron shots, but he can make a lot of birdies quickly. He's a guy that's not afraid of going low and lapping the field.”

Day remembers. He finished second to McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.

“I lost by eight,” Day said.

Day sees history-making talent in McIlroy.

“He has the tools to be kind of Tigeresque,” Day said. “Obviously Tiger is Tiger, but to be in the same sentence as Tiger is pretty unique . . . I think Rory has the ability to go out there and win more majors than he has right now. I'm sure that's what he wants to do.”

McIlroy played Thursday alongside Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 69.

“His game sure looks sharp,” Mickelson said.

Sharp enough to save a father-son outing and a chance for a memorable weekend.

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Watch: Guy does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”