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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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”