McIlroy shows perseverance in round and career

By Rex HoggardJanuary 31, 2014, 4:35 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Following Thursday’s 63 at the Dubai Desert Classic one Irish scribe wrote, “The legend of Rory McIlroy has been reborn.”

While it may seem a tad premature to announce mission accomplished – they tend to play all 72 in championship golf – and the Ulsterman’s Friday round was something less than highlight quality, there is no mistaking the air that has been blown back into McIlroy’s sails.

If Friday’s 70 was not exactly vintage Rors, it was a moment in time worth noting. On a day when the wind finally arrived at the Emirates Golf Club and McIlroy set out sans his A-game, it was an accomplishment to post something under par and maintain the lead.

“I have to realize that I’m in the middle of this golf tournament, even though it wasn’t quite as good as yesterday,” he said. “Hopefully that was my bad round out of the way and I can shoot a couple of better ones over the weekend.”

It’s equally compelling that McIlroy closed with a birdie at the 18th hole playing from the metaphorical weak side. After Thursday’s masterpiece, McIlroy figured his wedge game was still in need of an upgrade. He even traded in his 3-iron for a fourth wedge (a 52-degree) to help alleviate some of the gaps.

The result on Friday was a dart at the last from just over 100 yards to 2 feet for birdie and a one-stroke advantage over Brooks Koepka.

Making strengths out of weaknesses, that’s what champions do, and McIlroy has faced more than his share of weaknesses over the last 12 months. With each passing event, whether it was a missed cut in the season opener or a first-round loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the questions cascaded in a rush of criticism, some self-inflicted while others were unfairly launched.

The victory at the Australian Open to end last season, maybe more so than his blowout victories at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship, may turn out to be a seminal moment in McIlroy’s career.

“He’d just won in Australia, you could see the relief on his face,” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting coach. “It was relief that he got that win off his back. He certainly is in a position where he had a long year answering a lot of questions.”

For McIlroy, his Australian Open victory, which included a Sunday shootout with Adam Scott, was a reason to stop doubting himself and tune out anyone who may still want to.

Midway through his closing nine on Friday, a particularly difficult stretch for the world No. 6, there was a moment when things could have unraveled. A moment that, at least in 2013, could have led to another missed opportunity.

Cruising along at 12 under par, McIlroy’s approach at the par-4 13th hole landed about 15 feet left of the flag. After watching his birdie putt wander by the hole, he gunned his 2-footer for par past again.

It was McIlroy’s first three-putt of the week, but the shoulders stayed square and the head high as he marched to the 14th tee.

“I regrouped after that,” he said. “I hit a couple of loose drives out there which I haven’t really done the past couple of weeks, but still feel like I’m playing well enough to obviously go on.”

In 2013, a miscue like that at the 13th may have led to him going off. He answered with a scrambling par at the 17th hole and that wonderful wedge at the last.

Stockton figured that all the attention paid to McIlroy’s decision to join Nike Golf last year was largely misplaced. It wasn’t the equipment that facilitated his slide from first in the Official World Golf Ranking to sixth, it was a mind that was moving in too many directions.

There were lawsuits with former managers and sponsors to deal with and too much chatter about what he should be doing to fully concentrate on the only thing that matters – winning golf tournaments.

They say the best in any endeavor are forged by adversity and McIlroy has endured more than his share. He’s a 24-year-old who, depending on who you ask, has weathered two slumps in his young career and soared to two major championships.

For many, 2013 would best be a year forgotten. But as McIlroy continues to climb out of the depths of last season it seems he is more interested in clinging to the lessons learned.

“He’s obviously in a really good place,” Stockton said. “Everything around him, he’s in a better place.”

And now he’s back to a familiar place, beating world-class fields with or without his best stuff.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.