McIlroy facing unlikely challenge for European honors

By Ryan LavnerOctober 8, 2012, 4:30 pm

With four titles this season, Rory McIlroy has already wrapped up the PGA Tour money title and eliminated much of the suspense surrounding the Player of the Year award.

Not so across the pond.

McIlroy, who has sat atop the European Tour’s Order of Merit for much of the season, may have to fend off an unlikely challenge from rookie Branden Grace if he’s to capture both money titles – and Player of the Year awards – in 2012.

Grace, a 24-year-old South African, won his fourth European Tour title of the season Sunday (and fifth overall this year) at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

At one point last year, Grace was No. 362 in the world, toiling on the Sunshine Tour, needing to go through Q-School just to earn his European Tour card. Now, he’s one of the game’s brightest stars.

With his victory Sunday, Grace moved to 37th in the world. He’s the first European Tour player to win four times in his first season on the circuit, and only the 11th player to accomplish the feat overall. He’s earned €2,028,215, which puts him only €730,000 ($953,000) behind McIlroy in the yearlong Race to Dubai, the top honor in European golf.

Even Grace conceded that his goals have changed. Speaking to reporters after the final round at St. Andrews, he said, “I am all for catching Rory. … Now I am in third place, (and) first place is definitely in my sights. With a lot of big-money events coming up, €800,000 is not a lot to make up.”

Eight events remain on the European Tour schedule, including the Nov. 22-25 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, one of the richest prizes in golf. In Grace’s case, that closing stretch is even more critical because four of those events feature a purse of at least €6,000,000.

Grace was scheduled to compete in this week’s Portugal Masters, with a winner’s share of €600,000, but instead withdrew on Monday, saying he was “pretty knackered.” McIlroy, meanwhile, is playing in the inaugural Turkey Airlines World Golf Final, an eight-man match-play event that is not sanctioned by the EuropeanTour. According to the schedule posted on his website, McIlroy is slated for three more European Tour events: the Oct. 25-28 BMW Masters, Nov. 8-11 Barclays Singapore Open and Nov. 22-25 season finale in Dubai.

It seemed unfathomable a few months ago – heck, even a week ago – but the question now must be asked: Could Branden Grace steal the money title and European Tour Player of the Year? Might Justin Rose?

Here is a tale of the tape for the favorite and two leading contenders:

The favorite: Rory McIlroy

Order of Merit: 1st

Victories: 1 (PGA Championship)

Scoring average: 70.33

The skinny: The 23-year-old Ulsterman has done much of his damage in the events co-sanctioned by both the PGA and European tours. His emphatic victory at Kiawah Island netted him a first-place prize of €1,190,937, which accounts for 42 percent of his yearly earnings on the Euro tour. He was second in Abu Dhabi and also had three top-5 finishes in the World Golf Championships events, including a runner-up at the WGC-Match Play in February.

The contender: Justin Rose

Order of Merit: 2nd

Victories: 1 (WGC-Cadillac Championship)

Scoring average: 70.03

The skinny: Like McIlroy, Rose’s lone title this season came in a co-sanctioned event, the WGC tournament at Doral. The Englishman last played a full-fledged Euro tour event in July, at the French Open (T-9), but he is scheduled to play at least the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions to meet the 13-event minimum.

The contender: Branden Grace

Order of Merit: 3rd

Victories: 4 (Joburg Open, Volvo Golf Champions, China Open, Dunhill Links)

Scoring average: 70.80

The skinny: Only one of his victories came against an elite field (Volvo), but there’s no discounting what this rookie has accomplished. The knocks against Grace will be his four missed cuts, and his poor performances in three majors, in which his best finish was a T-51 at the U.S. Open (T-77 at British, MC at PGA). 

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”