McIlroy plays through knee pain, fires 63 at Memorial

By Rex HoggardMay 29, 2014, 11:34 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – After limping his way through most of 2013 Rory McIlroy has come alive over the last fortnight, scorching a defenseless Muirfield Village on Thursday with a 9-under 63.

That he did so with an actual limp only adds to his aura.

McIlroy continued his momentum from last week when he won the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour for a three-stroke advantage at the Memorial despite a “tweaked” left knee.

“I wear spikes and sometimes your foot can get stuck in the ground,” said McIlroy, who also tweaked his back last week at the BMW PGA. “It’s strange. I’ve never really had that before.”

It’s worth noting that throughout 2013 pundits attributed McIlroy’s relatively pedestrian performances to distractions, specifically his jump to Nike Golf, and yet he’s playing his best golf since he won the 2012 PGA Championship amid the most intense media maelstrom.

Last week the 25-year-old announced he had broken off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and endured an emotional press conference on the eve of the European Tour’s flagship event.

Despite the distraction, the Ulsterman rallied from seven strokes back on Sunday with a closing 66 and his first victory of 2014 and first on European soil.

Following a transatlantic flight on Monday and more questions about his failed engagement, McIlroy began his round with a stress-free opening nine of 32. That’s when things got interesting.

He birdied No. 10 and eagled the 11th to move into the lead before a poor sand wedge from 113 yards at the 14th hole found the bunker. From there he “made a mess” of things, needing four strokes to reach the putting surface on his way to a double bogey-6.

“I hit my sand wedge 116 yards and needed to take a little off and just flipped it left,” McIlroy said.

He would rebound with an eagle at the par-5 15th and another birdie at the par-3 16th before closing his day with two clutch par saves coming in for a commanding lead and his best opening round since a 63 at the Honda Classic earlier this season.

While many observers tried to tie McIlroy’s improved play to the clarity of thought that comes after a milestone event, he quickly dismissed it.

“It's been coming,” he said. “My performances have been really good, been shooting really good scores. There's just been runs of holes in tournaments where I haven't played so well, and I've shot 4 or 5 over in the space of nine holes, and that's really just derailed my tournament.

“Last week I just didn’t do that.”

Perhaps McIlroy’s off-course issues have caused him to throw himself into his work. It’s not an entirely foreign concept, but there is also no denying that his game had been trending in the right direction for some time.

He won the Australian Open in December and has five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, although he concedes many of those results were of the “backdoor” variety.

“I was expecting this to happen,” he said. “Honestly, I don't think it's anything to do with what's happening off the golf course.”

He’s also been on runs like this before. In 2012 he won three events (including the PGA and two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments) in four starts and dominated the field on Thursday with just 22 putts and solid ballstriking (hitting 13 of 18 greens in regulation).

“It’s a very hard golf course,” Jordan Spieth said. “Anything under par is a good score. Obviously, Rory didn’t think that.”

McIlroy said earlier this week that he wanted to focus on his golf, not his broken relationship with Wozniacki. On Thursday at Muirfield Village he made the rest of us do the same thing.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Paul Azinger Joins NBC Sports Group, Succeeding Johnny Miller as Lead Golf Analyst

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 22, 2018, 12:15 pm

Azinger Will Be Lead Golf Analyst on Golf Channel and NBC Tournament Coverage, Contribute to Golf Central’s Live From the Masters,

Golf Channel’s Instructional Platforms and Future Golf Films Projects

Paul Azinger will become NBC Sports’ lead golf analyst in 2019, following Johnny Miller’s retirement at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (Jan. 31-Feb. 3). The announcement was made by Molly Solomon, executive vice president, content, Golf Channel.

“For nearly three decades fans tuning into NBC Sports’ golf coverage have been accustomed to a lead analyst that told it like it was, and that mantra will continue with Paul Azinger calling the action from our 18th tower,” Solomon said. “Following Johnny Miller is a tall order. However, we’re confident in Paul’s ability to serve our viewers with candor and sharp insight, pulling from his decorated professional golf career and extensive broadcast experience.”

“I have great admiration for both the quality of NBC Sports’ coverage and commitment to great storytelling, as well as the network’s deep commitment to the game I love,” Azinger said. “It is a great honor to cover a tremendous slate of PGA TOUR and marquee events, including THE PLAYERS, The Open, Ryder Cup and Tokyo Olympics. Additional opportunities to contribute to instructional and historical projects, as well as Golf Channel’s top-notch news platforms, makes this the role of a lifetime.”

“Paul is one of the most perceptive minds in golf,” said Tommy Roy, lead golf producer, NBC Sports. “His innate ability to dissect the action in front of him and convey it to the viewer in such a concise, assured manner is what we value most across our tournament broadcast team.”

Additionally, Azinger will contribute to Golf Channel’s portfolio of platforms, ranging from Golf Central’s Live From the Masters alongside former colleague Mike Tirico; develop instructional content for both on-air and via Revolution Golf; and develop documentary projects for Golf Channel’s Emmy-nominated and critically-acclaimed Golf Films.

Azinger’s NBC Sports schedule in 2019, which will regularly include all four days of tournament coverage on Golf Channel and NBC, will kick off at the WGC-Mexico Championship (Feb. 21-24). NBC Sports will allow Azinger to continue to call The Masters for the BBC, as well as the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on FOX.

Paul Azinger Bio:

After playing for Florida State University, Azinger’s professional career highlights include 17 worldwide wins, including 12 PGA TOUR wins and the 1993 PGA Championship, as well as captaining the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Following his breakthrough major championship victory at the PGA Championship at Inverness, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After battling the disease for months with intensive chemotherapy and radiation, he was able to return to golf and received the Golf Writer’s Association of America Ben Hogan Award in 1995, which recognizes a professional golfer who remains active in the sport despite serious illness or physical handicap. Azinger’s comeback was fully realized in 2000, when at the age of forty, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii.

From 2006-2015 he served as the lead golf analyst for ABC and subsequently ESPN. In 2016, he joined Fox Sports' team for its slate of USGA Championships. Paul enjoys many hobbies off the course, including an affinity for poker and foosball, as well as maintaining a consistent schedule of all types of fishing. Azinger and his wife Toni reside in Bradenton, Fla., near their daughters Josie (son-in-law Sebastian) and Sarah Jean (son-in-law Tim). They are proud grandparents of Campbell and Houston.

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CJ Cup purse payout: Koepka gets PAID

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 22, 2018, 11:52 am

Brooks Koepka vaulted to world No. 1 with his victory at the CJ Cup. He also earned a lot of money. Here's how the purse was paid out in South Korea.

1 Brooks Koepka -21 $1,710,000
2 Gary Woodland -17 $1,026,000
T3 Ryan Palmer -15 $551,000
T3 Rafael Cabrera Bello -15 $551,000
T5 Jason Day -12 $361,000
T5 Scott Piercy -12 $361,000
T7 Pat Perez -11 $296,083
T7 Chez Reavie -11 $296,083
T7 Cameron Smith -11 $296,083
T10 Adam Hadwin -10 $228,000
T10 Adam Scott -10 $228,000
T10 J.J. Spaun -10 $228,000
T10 Ian Poulter -10 $228,000
T14 Tyrrell Hatton -9 $164,730
T14 Keith Mitchell -9 $164,730
T14 Brendan Steele -9 $164,730
T14 Ted Potter Jr. -9 $164,730
T18 Marc Leishman -8 $121,600
T18 Beau Hossler -8 $121,600
T18 Alexander Noren -8 $121,600
T18 Hideki Matsuyama -8 $121,600
T18 Paul Casey -8 $121,600
T23 Patton Kizzire -7 $79,895
T23 C.T. Pan -7 $79,895
T23 Danny Willett -7 $79,895
T23 J.B. Holmes -7 $79,895
T23 Si Woo Kim -7 $79,895
T23 Jamie Lovemark -7 $79,895
T29 Joel Dahmen -6 $56,824
T29 Andrew Putnam -6 $56,824
T29 Louis Oosthuizen -6 $56,824
T29 Sung Kang -6 $56,824
T29 Kevin Chappell -6 $56,824
T29 Jimmy Walker -6 $56,824
T29 Ryan Armour -6 $56,824
T36 Joaquin Niemann -5 $42,465
T36 Ernie Els -5 $42,465
T36 Justin Thomas -5 $42,465
T36 Brian Harman -5 $42,465
T36 Brandt Snedeker -5 $42,465
T41 Sung-jae Im -4 $30,970
T41 Dong Seop Maeng -4 $30,970
T41 Brice Garnett -4 $30,970
T41 Rod Pampling -4 $30,970
T41 Graeme McDowell -4 $30,970
T41 Austin Cook -4 $30,970
T41 Byeong Hun An -4 $30,970
T48 Charley Hoffman -3 $22,230
T48 Nick Watney -3 $22,230
T48 Branden Grace -3 $22,230
T48 Xander Schauffele -3 $22,230
T52 Kevin Tway -2 $20,140
T52 Kevin Na -2 $20,140
T52 Brian Stuard -2 $20,140
T55 Emiliano Grillo -1 $19,095
T55 Jason Dufner -1 $19,095
T55 Shubhankar Sharma -1 $19,095
T55 Peter Uihlein -1 $19,095
T55 Tae hee Lee -1 $19,095
T55 James Hahn -1 $19,095
T61 Brian Gay E $18,050
T61 Ryan Moore E $18,050
T61 Kyoung-Hoon Lee E $18,050
T61 Charles Howell III E $18,050
T61 Doyeob Mun E $18,050
66 Kyle Stanley 1 $17,480
T67 Billy Horschel 2 $17,100
T67 Sanghyun Park 2 $17,100
T67 Jason Kokrak 2 $17,100
T70 Charl Schwartzel 4 $16,625
T70 Stewart Cink 4 $16,625
72 Whee Kim 5 $16,340
T73 Abraham Ancer 6 $15,960
T73 Chesson Hadley 6 $15,960
T73 Hyungjoon Lee 6 $15,960
76 Michael Kim 9 $15,580
T77 Hyun-woo Ryu 13 $15,295
T77 Minchel Choi 13 $15,295
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Don't expect Azinger to try to be another MIller

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 11:40 am

Acting-school teachers call it "using the space," and there are few in golf who can so effortlessly fill a room like Paul Azinger.

The subject is irrelevant. 'Zinger can cover a lot of ground without a lot of prompting, from fishing to leadership management, but it’s not so much his insight and analysis as much as it is his passion.

“My wife told me, ‘You’re good at two things, golf and talking,’” Azinger laughed.

The former lifted Azinger to a dozen PGA Tour victories, including the 1993 PGA Championship, during a playing career that spanned three decades, while the latter has now led him to the pinnacle in golf broadcasting.

Azinger, 58, reluctantly concedes that although he’s technically succeeding Johnny Miller as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst beginning next year, he will never “replace” the legend.

“The reality is I’m not going to fill Johnny Miller’s shoes. I’m just going to be myself. Johnny just said tell it like it is. Those shoes are not to be filled. That’s not my goal,” Azinger said.

Azinger’s body of work in the booth is well established. Where Miller’s analysis has been defined by his blunt and sometimes cutting honesty, Azinger, since he first transitioned to the television world in 2005 – first with ABC Sports and then with ESPN and Fox Sports – has shown a unique ability to effortlessly entertain and inform.

It wasn’t always that way. During a recent interview Azinger interrupted his normal stream of consciousness and admitted that when he arrived at Brevard [Fla.] Community College in the late 1970s his biggest challenge wasn’t playing golf or maintaining a proper grade-point average – it was speaking.

“I dropped out of speech class my first year of college because I was so afraid to do the speech,” he admitted before inserting his own punch line. “Once my voice activation system kicked on, now you can’t shut me up.”

It’s difficult to see it now from a man who is poised to become the game’s foremost conversationalist, but there was a time when one might have described Azinger as an introvert.

Even into his playing days on Tour Azinger was easy and airy around his fellow professionals, but he was never entirely comfortable in a crowd until 1987, which was a breakout year both competitively and personally.

“I was forced to give a speech in 1987; I was PGA player of the year,” said Azinger, who won three times in ’87 and finished runner-up at The Open. “There were 600 people, that was my first speech. There were more people than I wanted to see. I didn’t know what to do. It was awful. I got up and cracked a joke and kept going.”

And he’s been talking ever since.

When Azinger first joined the Tour, he remembers, he got lessons from Byron Nelson and short-game advice from Ben Crenshaw, and he’s competed against every top player from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods.

He once lost a memorable shoot-out to Woods at Nicklaus’ tournament and was there when Tiger introduced himself to the world in 1996 at the Greater Milwaukee Open.

“Payne Stewart and I were on the tarmac in Milwaukee and I introduced myself,” he recalled. “I begged (Woods) to stay amateur because I knew he was going to do some damage.”

After retiring from competition in the mid-2000s with a variety of back ailments, Azinger was the original American task force when he led the U.S. team to victory at the ’08 Ryder Cup. He’s watched with keen interest as a new generation has transformed the game over the last decade.

Although 'Zinger’s style promises to be different from Miller’s, players shouldn’t expect kid-glove treatment.

“I see the game of golf as broadly as I ever have. I see all the technology and try to take in the global nature of it,” he said. “I marvel that a guy can hit a golf ball 326 [yards] in the air. They can make a mockery of the hole, but they can make double bogey or triple as well.”

He showed his fiery side at this year’s U.S. Open while he was working for Fox Sports and the conversation turned to backstopping, the controversial practice of players attempting to use an opponent’s golf ball to gain an advantage.

“In our generation, the guy who chipped it up there, we didn’t have to tell him to mark that ball. He went up and marked it and we waited on him to mark it. That’s just how it was,” Azinger said at the time. “It’s not right and we all know it’s not right. Be friendly and all that, but do it correctly.”

No, Azinger has no interest in shying away from difficult subjects, just don’t expect him to go to the “choke” comments as quickly as Miller. That’s not his style.

Where Miller could be a blunt instrument at times, expect Azinger to deliver his assessments, however critical, with a smile and probably a joke.

“I love to talk golf as much as I ever have in my life. I think I would regret it if I didn’t take this opportunity,” Azinger admitted. “To be there live for the big events is an opportunity that not many people get. I watch golf with more of a keen eye than I ever have.”

Azinger was right, there is no replacing Miller, who will call his last event as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst at next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. 'Zinger will bring his own style to the booth complete with an easy smile, disarming Southern drawl and a unique ability to thoroughly use the space.