Rory is living proof of difference a year can make

By Ryan LavnerOctober 14, 2015, 8:56 pm

NAPA, Calif. – Anyone who has declared this the start of the Jordan Era, or the J-Day Era, or the Big Three (or Four!) forgot one thing:

Everything can change in 52 weeks. 

At this time last year, remember, Spieth had one PGA Tour win and a series of near-misses that left some doubt as to whether he could close out big events. 

At this time last year, Day was the game’s greatest underachiever, a supremely talented but injury-riddled Aussie who had only two wins and mounting scar tissue.

At this time last year, Rickie Fowler, despite posting top-five finishes in all four majors, was still more style than substance, a player whom his peers would soon tab as the most overrated in golf.

And at this time last year … well, they were all looking up to Rory McIlroy.

He was on top of the world, with more than a three-point lead in the rankings. His closest pursuers weren’t Jordan, Jason or Rickie; they were Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and (yes) Sergio Garcia.

It wasn’t a question of whether McIlroy would hold onto the No. 1 spot. It was who, if anyone, could simply challenge him.

The answer, it turns out, was plenty of guys: Seven players accounted for 17 wins while ranked inside the OWGR top 10.

None made a bigger splash than Spieth and Day, who combined for three majors and 10 total wins, the first time since 1973 that multiple players won five or more events in the same season. Fowler also won the year’s most thrilling event, The Players, and added two more worldwide titles. Open: Articles, photos and videos

Left behind, in some sense, was McIlroy, a top-of-the-marquee name now relegated to a supporting role.

“The two guys that are at the top of the rankings are there deservedly,” he said Wednesday at the Open, “because they played fantastically well over the last 12 months.”

By no means has McIlroy been a total slouch this year – he still has three worldwide wins, including a statement victory at the WGC-Match Play and a runaway win at Quail Hollow. But his season was torpedoed by the worst-timed kickabout in golf history.

The ensuing ankle injury, suffered July 4, cost him a St. Andrews Open in the prime of his career, a title defense at Firestone and a realistic shot at the PGA, because he was too rusty to keep pace with Day and Spieth.

Lackluster form in the playoffs did little to suggest that a torrid run was imminent, though he has four more events, including this week’s stop at Silverado, to salvage what has been a disappointing, frustrating and humbling year.

“I would say it was a good season; it wasn’t a great season,” he said. “I feel like I’m at a point in my career where a great season is defined by major championships.

“My major championship performances this year were solid, but not what I wanted them to be. So it was a lost year in the fact that I didn’t win a major and add to that tally.”

It stands to reason, then, that the 2015-16 PGA Tour season, which begins this week, is shaping up to be a massive year for the 26-year-old.

He was challenged like never before.

He lost his No. 1 ranking.

He suffered a careless injury that essentially ruined half of his season.

So if all of that doesn’t motivate Rory, it’s fair to wonder if anything will.

“That gives me motivation not because other guys are doing well, but just because of the position I’m in,” he said. “I want to start winning tournaments again, and seeing them win five times a year and winning majors, it’s something I feel I’ve done before and feel like I can do again.

“So there’s always motivation whether guys are doing well or not. I find myself in a position where I’m trying to get my game back to the level it needs to be.”

McIlroy might be No. 3 in the latest rankings, but he has the best chance to end the year on top simply because he has more opportunities. After the Frys – he saw Silverado for the first time Wednesday – he will tee it up at the Nov. 5-8 WGC-HSBC Champions before closing out his calendar year at the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open and DP World Tour Championship. He currently leads the circuit’s season-long Race to Dubai.

McIlroy reported that he’s happier with his game now than when he left Atlanta, following a T-16 at the Tour Championship. What has kept him out of contention is his putting, which will be a major point of emphasis during the offseason, especially since his short game has been compared unfavorably to wedge wizards like Spieth and Day.  

“From now until forever,” he said, “it’s just trying to keep the strengths as strong as I can and chip away at the weaknesses. I sometimes feel like last season I neglected those weaknesses too much to focus on the strengths.”

That perfect storm – the negligence, the soccer injury and the remarkable play of his peers – was all it took to send McIlroy tumbling off the top rung. It likely won’t take 52 weeks for another dramatic shift.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (