As Open nears, McIlroy faces scrutiny on, off course

By Rex HoggardJune 8, 2012, 11:42 pm

In the whirlwind 12 months since Rory McIlroy made mincemeat of Congressional and U.S. Open history, the likeable Ulsterman won the Honda Classic, became No. 1 in the world golf ranking, tied for 40th at Augusta National, lost a playoff to Rickie Fowler at Quail Hollow, and now leads through two rounds of the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

In his spare time he ran afoul of the United Kingdom press for what was viewed in some circles as petulant behavior at the BMW PGA Championship, raced around Rome on a moped with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and missed three consecutive cuts to drop out of the top spot in the world order.

In other words, he’s behaved precisely like one would expect a 23-year-old globetrotting superstar to behave.

If McIlroy’s eclectic existence isn’t exactly what the golf world had in mind as he nonchalantly strolled up Congressional’s 18th green last Father’s Day with one hand on his first major championship and the other covering his stunned face, it wasn’t from a lack of warning.

Tee times: McIlroy grouped with Donald, Westwood at U.S. Open

Even after his eight-stroke masterpiece last year at Congressional, with a shag bag full of broken records and the U.S. Open trophy resting in front of him, McIlroy cautioned when the inevitable comparisons to Tiger Woods cropped up.

To paraphrase, McIlroy figured the last 13 majors are the hardest to win if he were ever to catch Woods, not to mention his idol Jack Nicklaus’ haul of 18 Grand Slam tilts.

So if the defending champion doesn’t exactly sport the look of the first back-to-back U.S. Open champion since Curtis Strange, in 1988-89, the second coming a month after McIlroy was born, he has come by it honestly.

Not that McIlroy’s youthful wisdom has been much solace as he navigates the first competitive valley of his young career. It’s been a free fall that’s been aggravated by startling expediency.

Following his playoff loss at the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy missed the cut at The Players, although that was little surprise considering his dreadful record at golf’s so-called “fifth major.” Another MC at Wentworth, where he’d played well in the past, wasn’t as easily dismissed and after he failed to advance to the weekend at Muirfield Village it became official in some media circles – Rory was slumping.

“These two-day weeks aren't really that good for me,” McIlroy laughed at his pre-tournament news conference at the Memorial.

But that easy smile concealed a growing impatience with his substandard play as did a break from his normal pre-major routine, which rarely has included playing the week before a Grand Slam.

A player who has adhered to a strict less-is-more approach for much of his young career has, in recent weeks, embraced quantity on the road to quality. At least that’s the idea.

“When you're working on things, you're always scrutinizing everything maybe a little bit more than you would when everything is going well or when you're not really thinking much about your swing or about this or that,” said McIlroy.

“But hopefully that's just a process where the more swings you make and the more holes you play, the less you'll start to think about it.'

That philosophy appears to be working. McIlroy has one eagle, nine birdies and four bogeys through 36 holes at TPC Southwind. His 7-under total has him one clear of the field.

'It's nice to see my name on that part of the leaderboard,' McIlroy said. 'It's not nice when you're struggling to make the cut on a Friday afternoon. It was great. It's nice to be through to the weekend obviously. It's obviously even nicer to be leading and have a great chance.'

Prior to teeing it up in Tennessee, McIlroy heard that the sky was falling. And maybe he believed it a little bit, as the addition of the Memphis stop and extended sessions with swing coach Michael Bannon suggested he was feeling the heat with the Open looming.

McIlroy and Bannon, who has rarely traveled with his most high-profile student, huddled in an Ohio hotel room last week looking for answers on tape. “I said to (Bannon) that I felt like I haven't really seen my swing that much this year,” McIlroy said.

But finding the proper swing plane is likely only half the battle. For the better part of a calendar, McIlroy almost effortlessly sidestepped many of the same pitfalls that have beset first-time major champions, balancing the new rigors of fame with a private life that at times was anything but.

Graeme McDowell was sent through the same rinse cycle following his Grand Slam breakthrough at the 2010 U.S. Open and marveled at McIlroy’s ability to find balance in uncharted waters.

“The difference between Rory and myself is that he’s been groomed for stardom. It’s no surprise that he’s doing the things he’s doing because he’s been a phenomenal talent for many, many years,” McDowell said. “He’s really taken his first major championship in stride and gone from strength to strength.”

As for the state of McIlroy's game – prior to his first two rounds in Memphis – McDowell was in the majority, figuring one could temporarily lose confidence but not talent. Particularly not the depth of talent that produced a record 16-under-par winning total last year at Congressional.

That McIlroy – who made the most of his weekend off at the Memorial with a four-day scouting trip to The Olympic Club – was taking this first detour in stride was further evidence that he may sometimes act like a 23-year-old away from the golf course but his golf IQ far exceeds his relative experience.

“Everyone goes through this, where they just don't feel that comfortable with their game,” McIlroy said in his signature maturity. “I just started to doubt myself a little bit.”

Besides, compared with last year, when he arrived at Congressional fresh off an epic Masters meltdown that some predicted would take years to recover from, this Open should be a breeze.

“This year I don't really have anything to prove,” he smiled.

Spoken like a true 23-year-old.

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

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But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.

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Lyle honored with sand sculpture at Wyndham

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 9:00 pm

Jarrod Lyle passed away last week at the age of 36 after losing his third battle with cancer.

And after a PGA Championship filled with tributes to the Australian, the Wyndham Championship found its own way to keep his legacy alive at the North Carolina Tour stop.

Next to the Wyndham Championship and PGA Tour logos carved into the sand on site at Sedgefield Country Club is Lyle's name and the "Leuk the Duck" mascot. The duck has become synonymous with Challenge, an organization that supports kids with cancer.

Fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby posted the display on social media:

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Lyle was also remembered in a more traditional manner on the first tee, where his bag and trademark yellow bucket hat were prominently displayed.

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Yin (64) steps into spotlight on Day 1 in Indy

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2018, 7:49 pm

American fans will be quick to embrace a young new winner with the U.S. ranks shrinking in women’s golf this summer.

With some of its biggest stars dealing with injuries, swoons or away on maternity leave, the American game could use a boost.

And here comes Angel Yin . . .

She is a major talent looking to break through this week at the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Still a teenager at 19, she moved into early position Thursday to try to win her first title.

With a spectacular start, Yin looked as if she might give the game a pair of 59s on the same day, with Brandt Snedeker posting one at the Wyndham Championship. Yin birdied eight of the first nine holes at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in Indianapolis before cooling on the back nine. She still shot 8-under-par 64, good for the early lead.

“It just felt good,” Yin said. “Everything was working.”

Yin was knocking down flagsticks on the outward nine.

“I had nine putts on the front nine, which is incredible,” Yin said. “Never had that many little putts.”

With Brickyard Crossing a big hitter’s park, Yin took advantage. She’s one of the longest hitters on tour, ranking fifth in driving distance (272.2 yards per drive).

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Yin has made runs at winning this year. She tied for fourth at the Mediheal Championship in April. She finished third at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at the end of June, but then missed the cut in three of her next four starts, including the Ricoh Women’s British Open in her last start.

“I was really happy how everything came together [today], because I have been playing well,” Yin said. “I just haven't been scoring.”

Yin introduced herself to the world stage making the American Solheim Cup team last year. She wowed fans and teammates alike bombing her driver in an impressive rookie debut.

“She is fearless,” two-time Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis said going into last year’s Solheim Cup. “The shots she can hit, nobody else can hit. She probably doesn’t quite know how to manage it yet, is the only thing holding her back.”

While Yin is seeking her first professional title, she has won as a pro. She claimed the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic on the Ladies European Tour at the end of last season.

Ying has been a big deal in Southern California for a while now. At 13, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run. At 14, she won a junior qualifier to get into the ANA Inspiration and made the cut. At 15, she Monday qualified to get into the LPGA’s Kia Classic. At 16, she won the AJGA’s Annika Invitational, finished runner up in the U.S. Girls’ Junior and played on the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team.