Amid criticism, McIlroy in control of work-life balance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2013, 3:00 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy walked through the entrance of the media center, climbed onto the dais, sank into a dark leather chair behind the podium and buried his head in his iPhone, tapping out a quick message before his therapy appointment … no, his interrogation ... OK, really, his scheduled interview session. The moderator, as if it to drive home the point, introduced McIlroy not as the current second-ranked player in the world but as the “former world No. 1.”

When you’re mired in an 0-for-13 slump, everything seems like a slight.

Over the past few weeks McIlroy has taken heat from all corners, as if he’s locked in a sauna. And these aren’t just sideswipes from anonymous Internet commenters. These are boldfaced names, legends of the game, presumably some of the most authoritative voices on the subject.

Jack Nicklaus has weighed in. He thinks McIlroy has become a bit too “leisurely,” that a little pressure to perform could propel him out of his yearlong slump.

Johnny Miller, as is his wont, offered his opinion. He thinks Rory is in love, and that such a dizzying feeling can be “distracting.” (For what it’s worth, he also doesn’t like McIlroy’s open shoulder position at address.)

And, most recently, Nick Faldo shared his thoughts.

The only person seemingly untroubled by the world No. 2’s current struggles? That would be McIlroy himself.

“I think, 'What’s the big deal?'” he said Wednesday at Muirfield. “I haven’t had the best six months, but it’s OK. I’m fine. I’ve got a good life. You know, it doesn’t bother me. I’m in a good place. I’m working hard. I feel like I’m working on the right things. And sooner or later, it will turn around and I’ll be back lifting trophies.”

Faldo’s criticism, in particular, dominated much of the headlines here earlier this week. “You have a window of opportunity,” the six-time major winner said. “You have, say, a 20-year window as an athlete. Concentrate on golf, nothing else.”

That’s precisely what Faldo did. He approached golf like he would a business. He arrived at the course at 9 a.m., hit balls all day, and left at 5 p.m. To him, that was a productive day. To him, the fun could (and should) wait. He sought, in order, greatness and then happiness.

McIlroy isn’t wired that way, and that’s OK, too. Sure, he puts in the time with his game – he has played 108 holes at Muirfield since last Monday – but he also enjoys his charmed life. He spends time with his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. He travels the globe. He acts 24 years old.

“Nick should know how hard this game is at times,” McIlroy said, “and he’s been in our position before. He should know how much work that we all put into it.”

When asked if he could ever foresee a day when he approached golf like Faldo, McIlroy didn’t hesitate: “No. I’m not like that.”

Certainly he isn’t naïve enough to think that any downturn in performance wouldn’t result into a full-blown crisis. He’s the 2012 Player of the Year, the phenom who won two majors by eight shots, the kid who was made fabulously wealthy by Nike. Now, and for the foreseeable future, whatever he does will draw attention.

The only other golfer who has experienced such ultrascrunity: Tiger Woods. He’s been microanalyzed ever since he greeted us with “Hello, world.” Maybe earlier.

This week, Woods recalled being criticized when he changed his swing after winning the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, and then again in 2002, after a stretch in which he won seven of 11 majors.

Only eight months of sharp criticism? In Woods’ world, that’s a reprieve.

“Only (McIlroy) knows it’s for the betterment of his game,” Woods said. “People obviously speculate and analyze and hypothesize about what he should or shouldn’t do, but deep down he knows what he’s doing.”

Perhaps no player in the past few years has given more thoughtful remarks about McIlroy than Graeme McDowell. Not surprisingly, he offered a word of caution before dismissing his friend and fellow countryman either this week or this season: “I want to say this time 12 months ago Rory McIlroy’s form wasn’t very good either, and he proceeded to have an incredible last six months of the season.”

But that’s only partly true. McIlroy’s “slump” last year lasted only eight events, or 3 1/2 months, and during that span he had only one more missed cut (four) than top 10 (three). In other words, he showed signs of busting out of his summer swoon.

That hasn’t been the case this year, not yet at least. His only legitimate chance to win came at the Valero Texas Open, the week before the Masters, where only 11 players in the OWGR top 50 were in the field. Since then, he has produced only two other top 10s, and he has played just 36 holes since the U.S. Open. Depending on the week, he’s either completely lost or tantalizingly close to a breakthrough, the margin of error seemingly as thin as a scorecard.

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Which brings us to this week’s Open at Muirfield.

McIlroy described the current state of his game as “promising,” which sounds like neither a ringing endorsement nor a death sentence.

In truth, this week’s test of links golf may be what McIlroy needs to shake out of this malaise. Here, a player thinks not about positions or swing thoughts but about shot shape, ball flight and angles. His recent form has lowered expectations – currently a 25-1 favorite – and his Open record is poor, with just one top-20 finish (2010) in five career starts.

Rest assured, if McIlroy struggles at the year’s third major, the chorus of critics will grow louder still.

Another legend will step forward and explain, yet again, what is wrong with Rory McIlroy.

And how will he respond?

“I think the best thing is to try and stay oblivious about what people are saying about you, to try and wrap yourself in a little bubble,” he said. “It’s hard to avoid at times, but you just have to have the confidence and the self-belief that you’re doing the right things and know that what you’re doing is ultimately going to get you to the place that you want to be.”

Which is, of course, being a prolific major winner who can also enjoy the spoils of his success.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

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''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

"Obviously the wind didn't blow. It was a different golf course than it was yesterday, you were able to take advantage of these par 5s," said Koepka, who opened in 71 on Day 1. "Felt like it was a lot more gettable. I putted so well, great ball-striking day, great putting day and very pleased with it."

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Current Official World Golf Ranking

That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"Just keep doing what I'm doing," Koepka said of his plan for the final two rounds. "I'm hitting it well and making putts. I felt like I probably could have shot about 7, 8 under on the front side there, missed a couple. You know, doing everything right and that's what you've got to do and hopefully this wind stays away."

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.