Getty Images

McIlroy's mind on fresh start in 2018

By Rex HoggardAugust 23, 2017, 7:55 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – It’s not officially a lost season for Rory McIlroy, otherwise he’d be knee deep in the renovation of his new south Florida home and daydreaming about 2018.

The FedExCup means too much to the 2016 champion after having finally won the season-long race last year following so many bridesmaid finishes; and he conceded that his decision to finish the playoff season was based entirely on how his body responded after a week off following the PGA Championship.

“I was unsure of what I was going to do and I came pretty close to saying, you know what, I'm going to wait and get myself healthy,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at The Northern Trust. “But I still have a lot of time after these events to do that. I feel like I'm capable of winning. I feel like I'm capable of giving myself a chance to win this thing.”

So the world’s fourth-ranked player will finish the postseason, which may be just three starts unless the Northern Irishman makes a move up the rankings the next few weeks, and he’ll finish his year on the European Tour at the Dunhill Links Championship in October.

And then?

“2018,” he smiled.

It’s been that kind of year for McIlroy, who didn’t play his first PGA Tour event until March and was slowed throughout by a nagging rib injury.

Following the PGA Championship he suggested his year might be over, his patience finally worn thin by the on-again, off-again nature of a rib injury, but the chance to defend his title and finish what has been a challenging season on a high note drew him back for one final push.


The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos

FedExCup standings entering the playoffs


The year hasn’t been a total loss. He finished tied for fourth at The Open, well out of serious contention but enough of a glimmer of hope to keep him interested. Oh, and he was married in April. But otherwise, 2017 has been a year best forgotten thanks to the combination of his ongoing injury, a forced equipment change when Nike Golf got out of the hard-goods business and a complete lack of victories.

“This thing has just been so niggly and it's flared up and then it's calmed down and then it's flared up again,” he said. “I haven't had the time to really let it settle down. I did at the start of the year, but I started to practice a little bit too hard, too early, when I came back from getting married and going on honeymoon, and then it flared up again.”

But if ’17 has been something best forgotten, at least from a professional standpoint, the normally jagged edge such a season would instill in a player was noticeably missing from McIlroy’s voice on Wednesday.

Despite his ’17 scorecard, McIlroy said he begins the playoffs confident in his FedExCup chances, noting that he began last season’s playoff push ranked 36th on the season-long points list. He’s currently 44th on the list.

“I feel like I'm capable of winning. I feel like I'm capable of giving myself a chance to win this thing,” he said.

But beyond the competitive necessities of the next few weeks, the bounce in McIlroy’s step was largely the result of coming up with a plan. After the Dunhill Links in October, he has a battery of tests scheduled that include a full-body scan and even a food intolerance test. He’ll take two weeks off after that before intensifying his focus on next season.

“All we'll be focusing on is getting me in the best possible shape with my body and my game going into 2018. So I'm excited for that,” he said.

That’s mind, body, game and beyond.

Following his news conference on Wednesday at Glen Oaks Club, McIlroy planned to meet with Mark Broadie, the mastermind behind the Tour’s strokes gained statistics and author of “Every Shot Counts.”

“I've become a big believer that they are very important and if you look at strokes gained from when they started to collect the ShotLink data [2003], the only guy that has ever averaged three strokes gained on the field in a year is Tiger [Woods], and he did it eight seasons,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy went on to explain that his best season was in 2012 when he led the Tour with a 2.406 average in the strokes gained-total category.

“That's my goal. My goal is to get to three. I want to be the only other player to get to three strokes gained-total average,” he said. “If I can do that, you'll win five or six times a year, at least.”

To do that, he’ll have to be healthy, which is why he’ll do what so few of the game’s top players do and take an extended break when the playoff dust settles.

His year isn’t over, not just yet, and he can still make lemonade out of what has been a lemon with a postseason run like the one that he rode all the way to last year’s $10 million payday at East Lake; but it wasn’t the thought of a walk-off that filled McIlroy’s voice with optimism.

No, that silver lining was the byproduct of what awaits in 2018.

Getty Images

Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

Getty Images

Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

Getty Images

Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”