Cruel Learning Curve

By Rex HoggardMay 4, 2011, 12:40 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The $1.312 million question has lingered in the air like an errant tee shot hopelessly caroming for Jones Cabin. How long would it take young Rory McIlroy to recover from his Masters meltdown?

The $1.312 million is the amount of money McIlroy cost himself when he burned through a four-stroke 54-hole lead with a closing nine that added up to 43 and a tie for 15th place. But that total was the least-concerning capital the Northern Irishman burned on Sunday at Augusta National.

Optimistic estimates figured McIlroy would be right as rain by the time his G4 touched down in Asia. The dark crowd estimated considerably longer. As a rule, it’s best to take the “under” when it comes to McIlroy.

If he looked harried and hapless on Sunday at Augusta National, the 21 year old appeared infinitely composed on Tuesday at Quail Hollow, where he will defend his breakthrough PGA Tour title this week.

“I don’t think I was ready,” he reasoned with reason well beyond his youthful exterior. “I displayed a few weaknesses in my game that I need to work on. But I think you’ve got to take the positives.”

For McIlroy, the positive was a third shot at a major in his last three Grand Slam soirees. Some will look at this as a called third strike, others a quality at bat, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Those who figured The Masters was a miscue that would not easily be digested either have short-term memories or over-active imaginations. This was, after all, the same kid who followed a second-round 80 at last year’s Open Championship with a 69-68 weekend to tie for third.

Similarly, McIlroy rebounded well from the Masters, finishing third at the Malaysian Open following a flight to the far side of planet with, of all people, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Of all the texts and tweets McIlroy received over the last few days it was advice from Greg Norman that resonated. The Shark’s take? “Don’t listen to you guys (media), don’t read golf magazines, don’t pick up papers, don’t watch the Golf Channel,' said McIlroy.

“I’ve taken my own views from what happened a few weeks ago and moved on and that’s the most important thing.”

In the moments before McIlroy teed off on Sunday at Augusta National his manager Chubby Chandler predicted the next 18 holes would be a learning experience. It turned into a crash course, but not a crash.

“He prepared for this by taking three weeks off and that’s unheard of. And then he played 11 rounds in 11 days and I saw the spark in his eye when he got here,” Chandler said at Augusta National.

Taking the long-view with McIlroy has become standard operating procedure for Chandler.

He may act 31 years old on the golf course, but away from the manicured fairways he’s as recklessly youthful as they come. At the Masters he spent his nights at a local mall and throwing the football with some mates. On Monday at Quail Hollow he joined in for a soccer match against a local men’s club team.

If McIlroy is still haunted by his closing 80 at the Masters the memories have been pushed down so far Dr. Phil couldn’t dredge them up with a backhoe.

Asked on Tuesday how long it took to “move on,” McIlroy shrugged: “Couple days maybe. It’s only golf at the end of the day. No one died.”

On Monday McIlroy had his first session with Tour putting guru Dave Stockton Sr., a move he initiated before his Masters meltdown but likely expedited by his final-round fade. To Stockton’s surprise he was far from damaged goods.

“Listening to him talk and his answers, it took him a day or two to move on,” Stockton said.

And why not?

At his age most players are still in college, or taking their lumps in the minor leagues. McIlroy is contending in majors, albeit with a measure of his own high-profile lumps, and shooting final-round 62s, like he did last year at Quail Hollow.

McIlroy’s is a unique education that would crush most others, a cruel learning curve that would send most phenoms to early retirement, or the nearest sports psychologist.

But not McIlroy. If one wanted to know how he was dealing with his Masters misstep they only had to watch him bound into the media center on Tuesday. The hardest, most difficult questions had already been asked and answered.

On Wednesday McIlroy turns 22 and will celebrate in the traditional 22-year-old way, which is to say without fear of consequences. The next day he will begin his first title defense on American soil with the same abandon and it seems without any baggage.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”