Horschel-McIlroy: Fire and reign

By Rex HoggardMay 1, 2015, 12:43 am

SAN FRANCISCO – In a special, #ThrowBackThursday moment at Harding Park, Billy Horschel was asked what he remembered about the 2007 Walker Cup.

“I don’t remember anything,” he deadpanned with only the slightest hint of sheepishness.

You may not know this about BillyHo, but he can trend to the Lewis Black side of boisterous, so when the 20-year-old version was sent afield to play for his country at the ’07 Walker Cup he openly admits he may have toed the line of decorum in what turned into a particularly heated match.

When pressed for more details from his week at Royal County Down, Horschel recalled playing Rory McIlroy three times (twice in singles). He remembers the emotions of playing for the United States and his teammates. He remembers wanting to win so badly that he may have let those emotions get the best of him.

“I was a very confident, could be called a cocky person, a very emotional person about things, especially in that match,” Horschel said Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.

McIlroy – who would drop two matches to Horschel at that Walker Cup, including a Saturday singles match, before exacting a measure of redemption with a dominant victory over Horschel in Sunday singles – remembers things slightly differently.

WGC-Cadillac Match Play: Articles, videos and photos

“His antics really pissed me off,” McIlroy told Golf Digest in 2008. “He was so loud and so obnoxious.”

By comparison, Friday’s final group match between the world No. 1 and the reigning FedEx Cup champion at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play will undoubtedly follow Queensbury rules, yet it still has all the markings of the week’s most compelling bout.

For all the misgivings of the new-look WGC-Match Play, confusion over the round-robin format being the primary culprit, it was the potential of just this type of scenario that made all of the mind-numbing math manageable.

“When I saw my group I was like, well, that’s not the easiest one,” Horschel said of McIlroy’s group, which includes Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner. “I thought if you can get out of that group you’ve done something special.”

To the delight of organizers, the cosmic tumblers delivered Friday’s title bout. McIlroy cruised to victory on Day 1, beating Dufner, 5 and 4, and he edged Snedeker, 2 up, on Thursday. While Horschel rolled past Snedeker in Round 1, 5 and 4, and was a 3-and-2 winner over Dufner on Day 2.

Whoever wins Friday’s match advances to the Sweet 16 and single elimination on Saturday.

It’s one of just four matches on Friday between unbeaten players, bringing a rare level of certainty to an event that seems to have lost a measure of intrigue with the endless permutations brought on by the new format.

That the Rory vs. BillyHo duel rekindles a rivalry that was born from those ’07 matches is only part of the Hollywood-ready script.

As recently as last fall McIlroy and Horschel were set against each other on another bright stage.

McIlroy, who began last year’s playoffs first in FedEx Cup points, was paired with Horschel the last two rounds at East Lake. The American beat the Northern Irishman by a stroke over those two days and, more importantly, won the finale and the season-long race.

“If he wins the Tour Championship and wins the FedEx Cup that’s probably one of the top-five greatest seasons of all time,” Horschel said. “I stopped him from that. If anything, he’s going to come out with a little bit more, not that he needs it, but a little more fuel to maybe redeem himself.”

Both players were clear that they put the contentiousness of the ’07 Walker Cup behind them long ago. When Horschel lost the Deutsche Bank Championship on the 72nd hole last year, McIlroy was there to console him. Horschel encouraged McIlroy when he was going through a slump in 2013.

“Back then we were a little bit younger and a little more emotional,” McIlroy said. “It was pretty heated. I don’t think tomorrow will be quite so much like that, but still you need to win or you go home.”

In signature Horschel style, he referred to himself as a “road block” to McIlroy this week, similar to last year’s Tour Championship and perhaps even the ’07 Walker Cup.

What’s different this time is that through age and injury both players have matured. There will be no histrionics like those on display eight years ago at Royal County Down.

At those matches Horschel’s teammates – a list that included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Chris Kirk – nicknamed him “Steve O,” because his shaved head made him look like the main character from the TV show “Jackass.”

“You know what, I probably was a jackass back then,” Horschel smiled.

The difference this time is that on Friday he’ll simply be a world-class golfer playing a much-anticipated match that promises to be unforgettable.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.