Woods, McIlroy rusty to start new season

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2013, 11:11 am

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – You’ve seen it by now. According to YouTube everyone in the free world has. That DreamWorks-like production that debuted this week featuring world Nos. 1 and 2 Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods trading shots and barbs on an undisclosed practice tee.

“You ever have one of those days when you just can’t miss?” the affable Ulsterman asked in the glossy new Nike Golf advertisement dubbed “No Cup is Safe.”

On Thursday at a windswept Abu Dhabi Golf Club, no scorecard was safe and it was one of those days when life went left where art powered ahead.

At the risk of jumping on the apologist bandwagon a tad early, the scrutiny, if not the sinister desert wind, was always going to be waiting for McIlroy when he walked off the ninth green (his 18th of the day) following a 3-over 75, and into the hungry arms of the media.

Abu Dhabi HSBC: Articles, photos, videos

Unfair as it all is, anything short of a course record and touchdown head start over the field at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was going to be labeled a failure. It is the unsavory ground where lucrative endorsement deals meet unrealistic expectations and to McIlroy’s credit he fielded every leading question with characteristic calm and charisma.

“He never had to worry about what was going to happen out there (on the golf course),” said one longtime European Tour observer, “it was here (the crowded interview area) where he had to prepare himself. I really feel for him.”

Before we start a campaign to save McIlroy from those who demand instant analysis, let’s put Day 1 in perspective. For those scoring at home, he hit six of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens in regulation and needed 31 putts, leaving him him tied for 89th when he walked off the golf course.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like the card of a world No. 1, consider that his cast mate in that Nike commercial hit one fewer fairway, three fewer greens in regulation and came in with two fewer putts, the approximant margin of error so to speak.

While the gathered scribes wanted to talk about the new driver, and the Ulsterman’s inability to control his golf ball into a crosswind, the final analysis suggests it was a predictable lack of touch on the greens that cost McIlroy on Thursday.

Not that the Northern Irishman had much interest in making excuses.

“When you go out and have some new stuff you can be a little anxious,” he said.

The truth is, the entire round had a preseason feel to it. Sloppy would best describe the play of the game’s top two players – as an aside, whoever had Martin Kaymer as the marquee group’s low ball on Day 1, please proceed to the collection window.

The round included a left-handed punch out by Woods at No. 13, a painful reload for McIlroy at the third after hitting his tee shot into a car park and more shots from the desert than one would imagine even here in the Middle East.

“This is certainly a round where guys can lose their score,” said Woods, who signed for an even-par 72 after three-putting the last from 40 feet.

On a day of firsts, Woods carded his first bogey of the New Year at his fourth hole, McIlroy signed for one of two double bogeys just five holes into the round and hit his shot into the par-5 18th hole so far left they probably found the ball in someone's cocktail.

Little surprise then that the first question he fielded had to do with the 14 new tools he has in the bag following Monday’s much-anticipated announcement that he would be joining the Swoosh team.

“I’m thinking it’s the swing more than the clubs,” he said before admitting, “the first round with new equipment and the scorecard in my hand, it was a good day to learn something.”

So what did the 23-year-old glean from his opening effort? That he was as rusty as a 10-year-old sand wedge and may need some time to feel comfortable with a staff bag full of new implements. Predictable for sure, but hardly preventable.

Let’s don’t forget, it took Woods the better part of a decade to work his way into a full bag of Nike clubs. By comparison, McIlroy is learning on the fly.

The most telling moment in McIlroy’s postmortem came when he confirmed that he felt comfortable cutting his driver up against a right-to-left crosswind but still has some work to do with his draw when the breeze was out of the right.

But that’s nothing new (see Masters, 2011). As Lee Westwood famously pointed out, the Ulsterman can get a little quick with the driver and as a cold morning turned to a breezy afternoon that left shot stung him, like it did at the third hole when his tee shot ricocheted off a palm tree and into the G Lot.

“With my old equipment I was afraid to release (the club) because of the left shot, but that’s not an issue now,” he explained.

Late last year as news spread of McIlroy’s impending jump to Nike many cautioned that such a wholesale change could slow his meteoric rise. On Thursday those fears became reality, but – as is normally the case – McIlroy proved to be the calmest head in the room.

“I’ll go to the range and work on it. It will be fine,” McIlroy said with a signature shrug.

Despite the predictable rush to judgment, for the man behind all those new Nike sticks, Thursday’s opening act was just one of those days.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.