Mighty 'Rors'

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2011, 2:04 am

BETHESDA, Md. – In a town that has a history of getting ahead of itself uber-agent Chubby Chandler wasn’t taking any chances early Friday when a well-wisher offered him a wildly premature attaboy for his client Rory McIlroy’s historic performance at the U.S. Open.

“Oh no, it’s a long way from being over,” Chandler cautioned.

Forty-eight hours and 36 storybook holes later the thought occurred that McIlroy may just be getting started.

Moments earlier Chandler had received a text message from another one of his major-totting clients Louis Oosthuizen: “Does he think the 10-shot rule means he plays by himself?” No, it only seemed that way on a wet and wild weekend at Congressional.

But then McIlroy made it easy to get carried away. One by one players marched past the apartment-sized leaderboard adjacent the Blue Course’s 18th hole transformed from competitors to lookie loos playing bit parts in a show the game hasn’t seen since . . . well, 2000.

“You just gotta giggle,” Robert Garrigus reasoned when asked his thoughts on McIlroy’s eight-shot advantage after three turns.

The dizzying pace of April’s Masters, when eight players held at least a share of the lead on Sunday, gave way to the clinically cold certainty that was the 111th U.S. Open.

The Northern Irishlad dusted off more history than a Harvard professor. In order:

-His 268 total is lowest in 111 playings of the national tilt.

-At 22 he is the youngest Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.

-His 16-under total is the most strokes under par . . . by four shots.

-His 11-under total on the par 4s was the lowest ever.

On and on it went, yet McIlroy’s greatest achievement at Congressional will never show up in the history books, lost amid the blur of his statistical and scoring brilliance was a gutty resilience and an unmistakable answer to a question few others could have mustered enough moxie to answer.

For the record, his closing 69 was just 11 strokes better than that grisly 80 he penned on Sunday at Augusta National, but it may as well have been a 111-shot improvement.

“I was very honest with myself and I knew what I needed to do differently,” said McIlroy, whose card of 65-66-68-69 featured just four of 72 holes played over par. “I had a clear picture in my mind of what I needed to do and where my focus needed to be when I got myself in that position again. And luckily enough for me, I was able to get in that position the major right after Augusta.”

Final-round 80s don’t just wreck tournaments, they have the potential of sinking careers. On Sunday at the Masters there was nowhere for McIlroy to hide. At Congressional he didn’t need to, buoyed by an iron game that found an un-U.S. Open-like 62 of 72 greens in regulation, the most since the USGA began tracking GIR.

By the time McIlroy birdied the par-4 fourth hole on Sunday he was a 10-spot clear of the field, with Steve Sticker the only mover from the too-little-too-late set. When his tee shot at the white-knuckle 10th pitched past the hole and eased back to within 6 inches for a tap-in birdie he was 8 up with eight to play – dormie.

The last person to leave Congressional please turn off the SubAir.

Like that it was match play, with McIlroy 2 up on his Masters’ demons and cruising. But then he knew it was always going to come to that regardless of his cushion or a glaring lack of contenders.

Congressional may have been an “Open Lite,” as some opined, softened by an imperfect storm of hot, dry conditions before the championship and a steady stream of showers during the proceedings, but history detests asterisks.

USGA executive director Mike Davis wanted 14 on the Stimpmeter, not the leaderboard. Instead he got something closer to 12 and 16 (under), respectively.

“I don't think we're going to try to trick Mother Nature. This is what we got in 2011. You come to the U.S. Open in the District of Columbia or in Maryland in June, that's the dice you roll, and that's what we got,” said Tom O’Toole, the chairman of the U.S. Golf Association's championship committee. “We ended up with a soft golf course.”

It was not the test the USGA wanted, but that does not lessen the enormity of McIlroy’s accomplishment.

“It's not amazing that he's going to win a major, but it's amazing how comfortable that he's lapping the field,” Padraig Harrington said. “There might be people capable of winning a major, but there's not too many people capable of dominating and running away from the field in a major.”

So much so that comparisons with Woods’ 15-stroke walkover in the 2000 Open flooded the humid hills. McIlroy was the first wire-to-wire major champion since Trevor Immelman at the 2008 Masters and the first to do it at the U.S. Open since Woods at Pebble Beach. That’s just the tip of the similarities between the bookend Open masterpieces.

McIlroy led by six through 36 holes, same as Woods, and eight through 54 holes, two less than Woods; although his eight-stroke margin of victory was seven shy of Woods’ record romp.

To clarify, McIlroy’s effort was Tiger-esque, Tiger-like even, yet from great victories come greatly exaggerated expectations. Although he looks every bit the heir apparent, even in Sunday’s late gloom the 22 year old emerged as the coolest head.

“It is nice people say he can be this or he can win 20 majors, but at the end of the day I have one,” McIlroy said.

For Trivia Pursuit purposes, Jason Day won the “B” flight, closing with 68 to post his second consecutive Grand Slam runner-up and his third straight top 10 in a major.

If McIlroy’s major climb had a road-map-to-greatness look to it, top-3 finishes in five of the last eight Grand Slams, Day’s is beginning to take on a similar shade, albeit at arm’s length at Congressional.

Not that Lee Westwood’s workmanlike Open resume is much solace. The Englishman, the best player without a major and arguably the best player without a U.S. Open, has played in a dozen U.S. Opens, has three top-5s – including Sunday’s tie for third – and nothing to show for it.

It’s an enigma Phil Mickelson can relate to. Lefty talked like a man poised to break an inexplicable Open schneid, but showed up with a three-quarters swing and never was part of the conversation. He’s is now 0-for-21 in the national championship and running out of time.

That’s baggage McIlroy will now never have to shoulder, a conclusion that seemed inevitable even after that unsightly 80 in April. Late Sunday night following that fateful final round at Augusta National McIlroy, Westwood and Chandler were gathered around the kitchen table at the team’s house when fellow Northern Irishman David Feherty broke the silence.

“I asked him Sunday night of the Masters and I explained to him the thought process I had, what I was thinking, and that I didn’t want it (a major). I said, ‘I can see that you do,’” Feherty said. “He was right back at me, ‘I want it more than you can imagine.’”

Little did any of them know that he would get it sooner than anyone could have imagined.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”