McIlroy back from injury to take spotlight from Spieth

By Rex HoggardAugust 12, 2015, 7:33 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – From his couch he watched the Open Championship unfold and attention spans wandered.

It wasn’t jealousy or even envy, as if the man that has everything would covet another’s prize; but for Rory McIlroy, the evolving narrative in golf over the last five weeks has been a study in mob mentality.

For nearly a year, McIlroy’s hold on the heavyweight crown had been undisputed and unchallenged. Even when Jordan Spieth won the Masters this spring, the Northern Irishman answered with victories of his own at the WGC-Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship.

Not long after Spieth’s second consecutive major victory at the U.S. Open, however, short attention spans and the desire for instant analysis began to change the conversation. And when McIlroy severely injured his left ankle playing soccer with friends on July 6, the world No. 1 officially became an afterthought, however temporarily.

“We live in such a world that everything's so reactionary and everything happens so quickly that a year ago after I won this tournament it was the Rory era and then Jordan wins the Masters and it's the Jordan era,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at the PGA Championship. “Eras last about six months these days instead of 20 years.”

If McIlroy’s take sounds bitter, it’s not.

If he sounds a touch put out over the attention Spieth has now garnered, he’s not.

To be clear, Spieth is “taking up a lot of the limelight this year which is deservedly so,” McIlroy said.

But it’s just as clear that the world No. 1 – and he is still the world No. 1, at least until Sunday – did not go on the disabled list quietly.

The same internal dialogue that drove McIlroy to two majors last season has been a tortured companion over the last five weeks of relative inactivity, repeatedly reminding himself that it’s not the limelight he seeks as much as it is all the accomplishments that land a champion at center stage.

PGA Championship: Full-field tee times

Not playing the Open Championship at St. Andrews, his favorite major venue, was so offensive he told friends and family he wouldn’t watch the event on television. He did tune in for most of the final round, but he didn’t like it.

That desire is virtually impossible to temper, driving Rory during the best of times to be unbeatable but also beckoning him back when things aren’t ideal, like the last five weeks of rehabilitation.

No athlete has ever come back too late from an injury, a truth that remains undefeated, despite McIlroy’s objections.

McIlroy’s injury, which was a total rupture of the anterior talo-fibular ligament along with joint capsule damage, is an ailment that normally requires a six- to eight-week recovery.

“An average person that goes to the physio three times a week will probably take between six and eight weeks,” McIlroy said. “Maybe I was one or two weeks ahead of what I was told at the start, but I don't think that's any surprise, given this day and age and everything that is at our disposal in terms of treatment and machines and everything.”

McIlroy is not an “average person,” but he’s not super human either.

The swing looks solid, and after arriving at Whistling Straits last Saturday he certainly appears up to the physical challenge of playing the year’s final major, but there are always unforeseen dangers when dealing with injuries.

“I just get worried sometimes when people get injured and come back a little early because sometimes it can snowball and go other places and it may start in an ankle, it could go to a knee, or could go to a hip, it could go to the back,” said Jason Day, who has dealt with more than his share of injuries in his career.

It’s called the kinetic chain, which is trainer speak for injuries or weaknesses in one part of the body, say the left ankle, that can slowly manifest itself in other areas, such as a right hip ailment, or worse it could even cause slight swing adjustments that will be hard to break over time.

It’s likely a conversation McIlroy has had with his trainer Steve McGregor, but knowing the road to take and veering down the correct path are two different things.

Keeping the proverbial racehorse in the stable is always difficult, but to put the climb McIlroy will face this week in context he’s being asked to save Game 7 of the World Series straight off the DL.

He played 72 holes in four days last week in Portugal to test his mended ankle, but he still hasn’t hit a meaningful shot since the final round at Chambers Bay in June.

To be fair, McIlroy has earned the benefit of the doubt considering how well he’s handled adversity throughout his career and he’s proven himself mature beyond his 26 years.

“When you're playing week in, week out and you're thinking about winning these tournaments, you get so wrapped up in what you're doing and your own little life and your own little bubble, sometimes you forget there's a bigger wider world out there,” he said. “That's something that I can bring in with me this week, knowing that, OK, it's a big deal, but no matter what happens this week, only a very small percentage of the population really care.”

Of course, proving to that slice of the audience that does care he is still very much a part of the conversation would also be OK.

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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

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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.”

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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.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1