Renewed attitude lifts McIlroy to PGA Championship

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2012, 12:41 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Smile.

That was the message from Dave Stockton Sr. to Rory McIlroy last week, at least according to the Ulsterman. To be historically accurate, Stockton’s delivery was something a tad more PG-13 than that, but the essence of the putting guru’s point was clear.

For some reason the world’s most happy-go-lucky kid had gone hangdog when the going got hard. Despite a budding romance, burgeoning career and big bank, “Rors” had grown up in the worst way when things were going well.

“I turn on the TV and look at him and see he’s not playing well. I told him I don’t want to know that. I drilled him last week,” Stockton said of the conclave he had with the 23-year-old in Akron, Ohio.

“I said, ‘You can’t do that, you just cannot do that. Jack never did that. Tiger never did that.’ Nicklaus was the best. I’m sure he got mad but I don’t remember him ever showing it. Rory’s smart, he’ll pick up on that.”

Little did Stockton know that it would take less than a fortnight for the message to sink in. With power, precision and no small amount of pleasure, McIlroy rolled over the field at the 94th PGA Championship with a 67-66 weekend that added up to a record eight-stroke margin of victory.

He did it on a golf course that is billed as America’s toughest.

“I watched him at Congressional (at the 2011 U.S. Open) and this was better,” said fellow Ulsterman David Feherty, who was the on-course reporter following McIlroy on Sunday. “Congressional didn’t have the disaster potential on every hole. Out here you don’t talk about a one-shot swing or a two-shot swing; you can lose three or four.”

As McIlroy scaled the hill to the Ocean Course’s 18th hole late Sunday, he had eight to spare. In fact, had the PGA been a match play gathering, like it was until the 1958 event, McIlroy would have been dormie . . . on the 12th hole.

On a Sunday that felt like a Ryder Cup with Europeans running in putts across the property, McIlroy put the finishing touches on a weather-delayed, third-round 67 before lunch and retreated to his rented house to nap. The rest of the day only felt like a dream.

McIlroy began the final round three shots clear of Carl Pettersson, birdied the second from the mulch left of the fairway and turned with a perfect 33 for a two-stroke advantage over a charging Ian Poulter.

Neither Poulter nor anyone else would get any closer thanks to 14 feet of par-saving putts at Nos. 13 and 14 and birdies at the 16th and 18th, the last a 30-footer to clip Nicklaus for the PGA’s margin-of-victory standard.

Yet as impressive as McIlroy’s 27-hole Sunday was, it will be a second-round 75 on fierce Friday that likely secured his second major. Four over through 13 holes in winds that gusted to 30 mph, he rallied with two late and unlikely birdies to keep pace with the lead and his title hopes alive.

A few weeks ago grinding out a score wasn’t among the phenom’s primary attributes, which prompted Stockton’s one-on-one in Ohio. Since his historic victory last year at Congressional, McIlroy hadn’t finished better than 25th when it counted at a major, but on Sunday the attitude finally fell in line with the talent.

“I was 4 over through 13 holes on Friday. It had all the signs of a round that could get away from you. I dug in there deep,” said McIlroy, who finished at 13-under 275. “I definitely feel like I'm getting better at handling conditions like that and being able to just know when a 74, 75 is a decent score and move on and know that the next day should be a bit better.”

“Decent” doesn’t come close to describing McIlroy’s Sunday, thanks to a near-flawless driver and a short game that produced 12 one-putts. If his Congressional Open was magical, Kiawah had a care-free mechanical feel to it.

“He had that ‘I’m winning this’ feeling to him,” said caddie J.P. Fitzgerald.

That confidence was likely fueled by a field that, other than Poulter, remained at arms length throughout a warm and breezy day along the Atlantic Ocean.

Pettersson, who led the event from the outset with an opening 66, drifted away after he was tagged two shots on No. 1 for brushing a leaf with his club while playing from the hazard.

Surreal that he would find the only place on property where he couldn’t ground his club.

In the ultimate bounce-back, Pettersson proceeded to birdie four of his next five holes after learning of his infraction and finished tied for third place at 4 under, a stroke behind little-known runner-up David Lynn.

“I didn’t think twice about it when I hit the shot,” Pettersson said. “One of those bad rules in golf.”

It may be just as well. Had the Swede-turned-Carolinian scored a major breakthrough it would have caused a minor revolt in European circles. Pettersson would not have qualified for captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s team even if he’d won the PGA because he is not a European Tour member, hasn’t been since 2002. Pencil whippings all around for the affable “Swedish redneck.”

Other than McIlroy’s work of art, it was all part of a hard-luck week. Pettersson can’t play for the European team and Woods can’t connect the 36-hole dots at a major championship, apparently still a step shy in his steady climb back to dominance.

In his last three majors Woods is 11 under in Rounds 1 and 2, and 13 over in Rounds 3 and 4 and he has not broken par in a weekend round at a major in 2012.

On the weekend at Kiawah the culprit was a suddenly dodgy putter following two stellar short-game days to start the week and Woods’ major drought now has eerie symmetry. He is now 0-for-14 in the majors in four years in his attempt to get off the 14-major schneid.

“I came out with probably the wrong attitude (on Saturday),” said Woods, who finished tied for 11th at 2 under following an even-par card to close the week. “I was too relaxed and tried to enjoy it and that’s not how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me.”

Similarly, South Carolina’s first major was something short of a walk-off. As one longtime Tour observer mused during a particularly long commute - five hours for some - following Saturday’s washout, the only differences between Kiawah and Alcatraz outside of a picturesque golf course is it is easier to get off Alcatraz.

The logistical criticism was compounded by officials' decision to play the Ocean Course “through the green,” which is to say if it looks like a bunker, feels like a bunker and plays like a bunker it must be a “sandy area,” the term PGA officials deemed Kiawah’s faux hazards.

“That's the most odd thing I've ever experienced: playing this course, that there's actually not a bunker on it,” said Adam Scott, who finished tied with Woods at 2 under.

About the only thing not odd about the Kiawah PGA was the smile on McIlroy’s face. It’s been awhile, but as he beamed his way up another sun-splashed 72nd hole it was like it never left.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.