McIlroy shows human side to professional athletes

By Rex HoggardMay 21, 2014, 3:50 pm

Behind the scripted outfits, the flashy news conferences, the ubiquitous sound bites about a game that is “close” and a swing that is perfectly honed for golf’s grandest stages there is a person.

In every sport you are what your record says you are. But in life you are the sum of your experiences be they pleasant or painful. Where fans and the media see the stoic reality of a scorecard, the truth is often measured in more subtle ways.

A bad day on the course is always more than simply a collection of missed putts and poor swings. On Wednesday in England, Rory McIlroy had a bad day.

Just days after sending out wedding invitations for his marriage to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, the Ulsterman announced the two had agreed to end their relationship after more than two years.

 “There is no right way to end a relationship that has been so important to two people,” McIlroy said in a statement. “The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn't ready for all that marriage entails.”

Three days earlier, McIlroy tweeted a picture of the two at dinner in Monte Carlo, writing: “Nice view for dinner with @CaroWozniacki at Nobu Monte Carlo.”

Wozniacki, a former world No. 1, caddied for him in April in the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National and the power couple had been dubbed “Wozzilroy.”

On Wednesday at Wentworth, site of this week’s BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy was visibly emotional during his news conference, but left no ambiguity as to why he decided to play the European Tour’s flagship event, “I felt it was my duty.”

No player in golf has embraced his plight in the media fishbowl as thoroughly as McIlroy. From his struggles last year following his high-profile jump to Nike Golf to his meltdown at the 2011 Masters, he lives his life as if attached to a Sodium Pentothal drip. No subterfuge, no evasiveness - just honesty, be it playful or painful.

It was the latter at Wentworth.

“It was mutual and we both thought it was for the best for both of us and it’s time to move on,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult. At least when I get inside the ropes I can try to concentrate on the shot at hand.”

We all have bad days – the car won’t start, the kids are late for school, the boss is a bucket head. Very few of us have to endure the trials of life staring down the barrel of a camera and microphone.

With a poise that goes well beyond his 25 years, McIlroy endured a 10-minute Q&A with his signature aplomb. He didn’t like it – we can’t imagine anyone who would – but then he’s been trudging down a path of unfiltered honesty since he arrived on the world stage.

And since delusional behavior doesn’t seem to be in his DNA, it seems likely he knows what comes next. Although he said golf would provide a refuge, it seems more likely it will be only a temporary distraction.

We’ve seen this before.

Although he wasn’t nearly as open about it, in 2009 when Sergio Garcia split with his girlfriend, Greg Norman’s daughter Morgan-Leigh, the impact on his performance was obvious.

El Nino was second in the Official World Golf Ranking when he and Norman split in March ’09. Within 18 months he’d plummeted to 75th in the world.

“Myself, when I am not feeling happy on a golf course and not up for it, that is the way it is,” Garcia said in July ’09. “You can’t do anything about it. I can’t do well. Obviously the break-up with Morgan didn’t help. You get over some things. Others take a little longer.”

Garcia has since played his way back to seventh in the world, and given McIlroy’s play in 2014 – he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 anywhere in the world this season – perhaps he will cling to the onward-and-upward philosophy.

But know this, it will be a tough day at the office when he sets out Thursday at Wentworth. The scorecard will be the objective measurement, but the real test of his ability to move on will come from within.

“I’m no different than anyone else. Everybody has been through breakups and it’s difficult,” McIlroy allowed as he fidgeted uncomfortably Wednesday. “I just want to get my head into golf this week and concentrate on the tournament.”

No, it’s not any different than anyone else who has found themselves on the wrong side of an emotional roller coaster. But in McIlroy’s case he must shoulder through in the public eye.

We often forget star athletes are human and we expect top performances regardless of relationship status or the occasional cosmic curveball. Luckily, McIlroy has never shied away from his humanity.

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Watch: Moore 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.”