Day, McIlroy set for a rare heavyweight duel

By Ryan LavnerMarch 26, 2016, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Savor this while we can, the blockbuster clash between two of the top three players in the world.

It doesn’t, and won’t, happen very often.

For dimpleheads, it’s the barroom debate that has raged since last summer: At the peak of their powers, who's the best: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth?

Spieth withdrew himself from consideration this week with a loss in the round of 16 at the WGC-Dell Match Play, much to the disappointment of the partisan crowd here that has lustily cheered the three-semester Longhorn. But Day and McIlroy both won their quarterfinal matches in convincing fashion Saturday, setting up a rare duel between two of the most physically gifted players on the PGA Tour, between the last two winners of this grueling, five-day, seven-match slugfest.

“I’d really relish it,” McIlroy said, when the matchup wasn't yet guaranteed. “I’d really be up for it.”

“I’m looking forward to being able to play against Rory, especially in this format,” Day said about an hour later. “We don’t get to do that too much.”

No, they don’t. It’s only the second time in the event’s history that two of the top three players in the world have faced off in the semifinals (No. 2 McIlroy beat No. 3 Lee Westwood in 2012).

And to think, four days ago they seemed so unlikely to meet.

Four days ago, Day was hobbling up the 16th fairway, holding his back, dropping to one knee, his bulging disk inflamed and putting the rest of his week – and his Masters readiness – in doubt.

Four days ago, McIlroy was coming off a sloppy performance at Bay Hill and in a dogfight with the unheralded Thorbjorn Olesen, in need of a par on the last for a 1-up victory in his opening match.

WGC-Dell Match Play Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Since then, Day has lived on the massage table while still finding a way to drive par 4s, and McIlroy’s confidence has grown to the point that, whatever happens Sunday, he believes he is fully prepared for the rigors of the year’s first major, now just 12 days away.

As often as they’re linked by fans who crave a rivalry and a modern Big 3, Sunday’s semifinal match will provide a deeper look into their similar games and disparate styles.

Yes, they boom tee shots, launch sky-high irons and rack up birdies. But Day is violent, and aggressive, and tenacious. McIlroy is an insouciant ball-striker who struts around the course.

“On the green is going to be the biggest difference tomorrow between me and Rory,” Day said. And if that’s the case, if their match becomes a putting contest, the Australian would enjoy a significant advantage, for he is the No. 2-ranked putter on the PGA Tour this season, while McIlroy, who recently switched to a cross-handed method, is ranked 95th.

Though Day says he is still limited by a sore back that has required treatment, stretching and good rest each night, he has played 19 fewer holes this week than McIlroy (69-88), a byproduct of stellar play, slumping opponents and Paul Casey conceding after six holes Friday because of a stomach virus.

“Any sort of advantage I can take,” Day said, “I need against him. He’s obviously a fit-looking bloke, so I don’t think he’s going to have any trouble with that.”

But the back soreness doesn’t appear to be hindering Day’s game, either.

One up against Brooks Koepka, he smashed a 367-yard drive, then hit a towering 8-iron from 189 yards to 10 feet for a conceded eagle on 12. On the next hole, the short 13th, he drove the green. Two holes later, he took a seemingly unthinkable line over a hospitality tent, a 368-yard bomb that all but secured his quarterfinal victory.

Funny, because his week that began with him nearly withdrawing because of injury culminated Saturday with his return to world No. 1.   

“It’s the weirdest thing,” he said.

There’s been nothing odd about McIlroy’s week. After steamrolling Chris Kirk with four back-nine birdies, McIlroy now has a 12-match unbeaten streak and is just two more wins from joining Tiger Woods as the only players to defend their Match Play titles.

All spring, McIlroy’s goal was to get a win before Augusta. Sunday is his final chance, and he’ll have to get past not only Day, but also the winner of the Louis Oosthuizen-Rafael Cabrera Bello match.

“Getting wins, you do get momentum with every single round that you get through,” McIlroy said. “You can feel it build and you can go with it.”

Obviously, one 18-hole match won’t provide a definitive answer about who is better, McIlroy or Day, but these head-to-head battles between stars are increasingly rare, especially in this fickle format.


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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”