Lowry shocks good friend McIlroy at Match Play

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2013, 2:37 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Lil Abner’s was a lively place Tuesday night. About 20 Tour types moseyed through the dimly lit steakhouse, a contingent that, interestingly enough, included Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy. They dined together on the eve of their Round 1 tilt at the WGC-Match Play Championship.

If you’re surprised, don’t be. Friends since they were teammates on the Irish amateur squad, they break bread frequently on Tour. Play practice rounds together, too.

And whatever intimidation factor existed in playing the world No. 1 on a grand stage likely disappeared over a full rack of pork ribs.

“It’s only a game of golf; it’s not life or death,” Lowry said Thursday night. “We weren’t going into battle. It was just a normal dinner.”

Over the course of 18 holes, not much separates the No. 1 player in the world and No. 66. A few more shots in the arsenal, maybe. The confidence to know he has done it before, perhaps.

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“But I think it was a bit of a banana skin for him,” Lowry said. “It was always going to be tough for him being the world No. 1 no matter who he plays against, no matter if it’s me or anyone else. Because anyone going out to play against Rory is going out to beat him because he’s the best.”

Indeed, because there are expectations – heavy burdens – placed on the top-ranked player. And Rory McIlroy’s expectations have never been more outsized.

First there was the mega-deal with Nike during the offseason, the one that came with smoke tunnels and holograms and cutesy commercials. (New slogan: No bracket is safe.) Then came the 75-75 missed cut in Abu Dhabi. And now this, a first-round exit here, 1 up to Lowry, meaning that for the third time in the last four years, the No. 1 overall seed has been sent packing after Round 1.

And meaning also that McIlroy has played just three competitive rounds since Nov. 25. The Masters, if you’re counting at home, begins in 49 days.

“Obviously disappointed I didn’t get to play a little more golf this week,” McIlroy said, “but I’ll practice over the weekend.”

This is the first of three consecutive starts for the Northern Irishman, and he arrived in the high desert believing that his game was on track, that he had “turned the corner,” that those highlights of his one-handed follow-throughs were a distant memory.

No doubt, his game looked better at Dove Mountain, in the limited action we saw. His driving off the tee was markedly improved, save for a hook off the 15th tee that led to a critical lost hole. But his iron play was spotty, missing wide right down the stretch.

“Just getting ahead of it,” he explained. “I think it’s more a timing thing than anything else.”

Meanwhile, as McIlroy searched to find a consistent swing, Lowry thrived in the spotlight. Walking down the 11th fairway and all square in the match, the Irishman turned to his caddie Dermot Byrne and said, “He’s not liking this one bit. He’s the one under pressure. I’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s have a go from there.”

Almost on cue, Lowry chipped in from behind the 11th green for birdie to halve the hole. Then he sailed his tee shot on the par-3 12th over the green, the ball nestling against one of the grandstands. Lowry took a free drop, slid his wedge under the ball and lofted it softly on the green. A few tense seconds later, it tumbled into the cup for an improbable birdie. One up.

“The momentum shifted a little bit,” McIlroy said.

“That gave me the momentum to go on and win the match,” Lowry said.

“That wasn’t easy, but I’ve seen him do it so often you half-expect it,” Byrne said.

Perhaps even more impressive, Lowry followed that shot with a fairway wood to 3 feet on the par-5 13th, setting up a conceded eagle – a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch that gave him a 2-up lead he wouldn’t relinquish, even after missing a 4-footer on the very next hole.

The turning point came on the short 15th, when McIlroy hooked his drive into the desert. His ball settled next to a cactus bush, and he needed to play the shot left-handed just to extricate himself. He slapped out into the bunker, then bladed his bunker shot over the green and conceded the hole.

“He did hit a few ropey shots today coming in,” Lowry said. “But I mean, everyone hits bad shots. At the end of the day, he’s only human.”

On Tuesday, two days before he eventually would peg it against McIlroy, and just a few hours before they dined together at Lil Abner’s, Lowry conceded that a victory over the world No. 1 would be “one of the great stories of my career.”

The accomplishment wasn’t but 30 minutes old. McIlroy was still gathering his belongings in the locker room. Byrne was still skimming through messages on his cellphone. But Lowry was asked how it felt now that he’d knocked off his former teammate, his good friend, the top-ranked player in the world.

“It’s definitely a day I’m going to remember,” Lowry said. “I’m sure, after a few weeks or a couple of months, I will slag Rory over it. But at the end of the day, it’s only the first round. I’ve only beaten one player, and I’m here to beat more.”

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.

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Maggert and Parnevik lead at Bass Pro Shops

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 10:49 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shot an 8-under 63 in better-ball play Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' chilly Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

''It was very relaxing for me because I felt like terrible,'' Parnevik said. ''I was so stiff this morning. It was freezing cold. I thought if I can just try to make some pars in case he ever makes a bogey, but I didn't even have to do that.''

Playing together for the first time in the team event, Maggert and Parnevik eagled the par-5 eighth and had six birdies in the cool and breezy conditions on Big Cedar Lodge's Buffalo Ridge course.

''We play well together,'' Maggert said. ''We both contributed a lot. Jesper had a lot of birdies and an eagle on our final nine. It was so cold this morning, I just was going to come out and just try to hit fairways and greens. Really I wasn't thinking about making birdies, I was just trying to play steady and give myself an opportunity to have some birdie putts.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

The next three rounds will be played on par-3 courses. Maggert and Parnevik will play the 18-hole Top of the Rock on Friday and Sunday, and the 13-hole Mountain Top on Saturday.

Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin were a stroke back. They also eagled No. 8. Austin won the 2016 title with Michael Allen. Calcavecchia won the Boca Raton Championship this year.

''I lucked in a few birdies on the back, but it was tough, tough conditions,'' Calcavecchia said. ''Even when it warmed up a little bit, it was still tough to make birdies out there. All in all, 7 under's a pretty good start.''

Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman were at 65 along with Davis Love III-Scott Verplank, 2015 winners Billy Andrade-Joe Durant, Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett and Steve Flesch-David Toms.

''We kind of brother-in-lawed or ham-and-egged it or partnered it,'' Love said. ''Neither one of us were playing great, but we had one guy in every hole and that's kind of what you have to do. We're going to have to go to the par 3 courses and get two birdie putts on a hole is what you really want to do and we didn't do that enough today.''

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week for his first senior title.

Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were tied for 22nd at 68.

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Dredge, Quiros share early lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 8:41 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Bradley Dredge reeled off three birdies in his last five holes to share the lead with Alvaro Quiros after the opening round of the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II event Thursday.

Quiros finished with two straight birdies as the big-hitting Spaniard joined Welshman Dredge on 5-under-par 67.

Dredge, who made seven birdies in all, has won twice before but his last triumph came in 2006.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Quiros, who has claimed seven victories, last won at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily last year.

The joint leaders have a one-shot advantage over Oliver Fisher, Joakim Lagergren, Erik Van Rooyen and Lorenzo Gagli at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

Former U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett, without a win since his victory at Augusta two years ago, opened with a 1-over 73.