Rounding Third

first_imgHOYLAKE, England – Who said these words? “My game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don’t enjoy playing in really. That’s the bottom line. I’d rather play when it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.” Three years ago at rainy, windy Royal St. George’s Rory McIlroy, just a month after his first major win at the U.S. Open, did not love his beloved Open Championship. It’s the championship McIlroy grew up dreaming of winning, but there he stood on that undesirable day and admitted he wasn’t mentally strong enough to battle the elements that this style of golf often presents. “Just wait for a year when the weather is nice,” he said. Well, the weather was mostly ideal for four days at Royal Liverpool and McIlroy won. The 25-year-old captured the 143rd edition of the game’s grandest championship to grasp his third major and the third leg of the career Grand Slam, something only Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24) have done at a younger age. He’s the first European player, and 16th player overall, to win three different majors. This one, however, wasn’t easy. Not by any means. Open Championship full-field scores Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos It wasn’t an eight-shot romp like the record-setting performance three years ago at the U.S. Open at Congressional. It didn’t mirror the eight-shot dominance McIlroy displayed two years ago at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. Sure, for three days it seemed this victory would be similar. McIlroy eagled two of the last three holes on Saturday to sleep on a six-shot lead but held off hard-charging Sergio Garcia (66) and Rickie Fowler (67) on Sunday to shoot 71, good for a 17-under-par 271 total and two-shot victory. McIlroy is the youngest player in history to win two majors wire-to-wire without any ties. “I’m immensely proud of myself,” McIlroy said, jug in hand. “To sit here 25 years of age and win my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way to the career Grand Slam, yeah, I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly.” Don’t let the final-round 71 get in the way of the bigger picture. While the likes of Garcia, Fowler, Jim Furyk, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Shane Lowry were throwing darts into greens and collecting birdies like it was a weekend scramble, McIlroy did what he needed to do in the final round even though it wasn’t picture perfect. The beautiful part was the first 54 holes, where McIlroy opened with a flawless 66, slayed the demons of recent poor Friday performances in Round 2 and closed with that eagle flurry in the third round. The common theme during that stretch was that he launched booming drive after booming drive, sent laser-like iron shots into greens at will and made every crucial putt. That deadly trifecta allowed McIlroy to build the massive lead and give him wiggle room on a Sunday with the revered claret jug on the line. “Just envious and respectful and appreciative of the curly-haired kid,” McIlroy’s compatriot Graeme McDowell said. Tiger Woods, who finished 23 shots behind McIlroy, said, “When he gets it going, he gets it going.” For most of the week McIlroy teased media by saying he had two simple words that he kept repeating to himself that had him insanely focused. Some predicted it would be words like “claret” and “jug” but ultimately McIlroy confessed that it was “process” and “spot.” His goal was to focus on the process, no matter the result, and putt to a spot on the greens that would allow him to make putts. “It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone,” he said before the big reveal. “That was it.” True, it was a letdown, but no one particularly cares. Point is, McIlroy has won another major, and many more seem in the offing. In the past 18 months McIlroy has gone through an equipment change, a change in representation and an end to a high-profile relationship that seemed headed for marriage, among other snafus. He didn’t play his best golf during that span, but he’s back on top now with a renewed vigor for his craft. It’s good for the game that Rory’s got his groove back. “I’ve really found my passion again for golf,” he said. “Not that it ever dwindled, but it’s what I think about when I get up in the morning, it’s what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer that I can be. And I know if I can do that, then trophies like this are within my capability.” About those trophies, now we look ahead. McIlroy’s length and precision – or process and spot, I guess we should say – could prove handy on a massive Valhalla track that will host the PGA Championship in three weeks just east of Louisville, Ky. No one is going to hand him the Wanamaker Trophy but he’ll be the heavy favorite and it’d be a surprise if he’s not in the hunt at the very least. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly,” McIlroy said emphatically. At the risk of getting way ahead of ourselves, there will be suffocating hype for McIlroy heading into the Masters next April as he looks for the final piece of the career Grand Slam. He’s had a chance to win there but crashed and burned for the whole world to see. Everyone remembers the 2011 debacle where he led after 63 holes but butchered the back nine with a 43 to shoot 80 and tie for 15th place. He tied for eighth-place this year. Augusta National suits McIlroy’s game as much, if not more, than any other major venue. Five men have captured the career Grand Slam in the modern era, but the only man to earn the final piece of the puzzle at the Masters is Gene Sarazen in 1935. Hysteria awaits. “That’s a pretty impressive thing for him to do, especially given that the one that he’s missing is the Masters,” Phil Mickelson said. “And you know with his length and the way he plays and how well he plays that golf course, that that definitely will happen and probably soon. And that just shows that he’s such a complete player at such a young age.” Much like Mickelson wasn’t afraid to face career Grand Slam talk after last year’s Open win at Muirfield, McIlroy stepped up to the plate and didn’t duck similar questioning. “I’ve always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta,” he said. “It’s just taken me a few years to figure out the greens and figure out where you need to miss it and some different little shots that you might need that week. I’ll be going into Augusta next year pretty confident.” And he’s leaving Hoylake as confident as ever before. Scary.last_img read more

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Hard Knocks

first_imgJOHNS CREEK, Ga. – By now Fred Wedel has probably called his dad, who is lying in a bed in his sister’s home in Sacramento, Calif., a laptop by his side. Typically, the voice on the other end of the phone is enthusiastic: Wow! Way to go! Great playing! This week, though, the elder Wedel has been calm and collected. Soothing. Patient. It was as if he sensed something bigger was brewing. Well, it doesn’t get much bigger than what will unfold here Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club, after Wedel defeated Nathan Smith, 4 and 3, to reach the semifinals of the 114th U.S. Amateur Championship. The 619th-ranked player in the world, Wedel’s last tournament win was the district title his senior year of high school. Now, the Pepperdine junior is two matches away from a national championship, and just one from a berth in the Masters. In a field littered with silver-spooners and prodigies, Wedel’s story resonates most. U.S. Amateur: Articles, videos and photos He was 10 when his dad (also named Fred) kept scratching what he thought was a mosquito bite on his neck. It turned out to be a staph infection in his spinal cord, and a few weeks later he was paralyzed from the neck down. A normal childhood was no longer possible. For three years, Fred spent most of his days in a car, driving an hour to and from the hospital, where sometimes all his dad could do was listen. “I really didn’t handle it well,” he said. “I just kept having hopes that maybe one day he’d walk again, that we’d figure it out. Eventually I realized he wasn’t going to walk again. It threw me into a dark place for a while.” An eighth-grader without a father figure, Wedel rebelled. His family split apart. He got kicked out of private school. His golf game suffered without the man who taught him how to play with a cut-down 7-iron at age 3. “I wasn’t playing good golf and my dad was in a hospital bed,” he said, “so I had bigger things to worry about.” His fiercely competitive nature brought him back, but he was lightly recruited as a junior player. Texas wasn’t interested. Texas A&M didn’t want him. Hometown Houston had better options. That was fine with Wedel, who wanted to get away, to start fresh. Pepperdine assistant coach Carl Smith needed to watch only one of Wedel’s tournaments before extending a scholarship. The private school offered both strong academics and a proven golf program – and, OK, the breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean weren’t bad either. Wedel may have intrigued coaches with his edge, with his I’ll-show-you attitude, but it didn’t translate on the course. During his freshman year he was a non-factor, recording only a pair of top 10s. With money tight, Wedel spent last summer mostly on the practice range, not the amateur circuit. This year he worked the member-guest at Bel-Air Country Club, which helped pay for a few flights to tournaments like the Southwestern (T-16) and Northern (T-10) amateurs. “It’s tough for me at times,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things to worry about. I wish I could go all over the country in the summer and play all these great events, but I’ve got to plan my way around it. I’ve got to make the best of what I have.” Last October, at the start of Pepperdine’s season, the elder Wedel sent the coaching staff an email saying that he wanted to surprise his son at the upcoming Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Golf at this level is oftentimes a family outing, with mom and dad waiting by the scoring tent for high-fives after a low round, or hugs after a 75. It’s something Wedel hasn’t experienced since he was 10 years old, so when he saw his father – wrapped in a blanket and propped up in a wheelchair – behind the ninth green at Sonoma GC, he put his hands on his head and cried. “All of a sudden we saw life through Fred’s eyes,” Pepperdine coach Michael Beard said. “What he’s gone through is something that none of us can relate to.” Wedel was so shook up that he bogeyed his next four holes. Not that it mattered. “This is one of the last things on my bucket list, to see my son play golf again,” his 74-year-old father told Beard. Wedel began to play better after that inspirational visit, finishing in the top 15 in four of his last five events to qualify for NCAA regionals as an individual. With 10 days between the end of school and regional play, Wedel and Beard played matches all morning and afternoon, then had heart-to-hearts at night. They talked about his dad’s health. They talked about what it was like to grow up without a father figure, without guidance, without a steady support system. “I see a kid that needs someone to kind of coach him not just in golf,” Beard said, “but also to coach him along in life.” Even Wedel acknowledges that to take his game to the next level, he needs to develop a plan for success: What areas should he address? What schedule should he play? What should he improve physically, mentally, emotionally? His remarkable run this week has opened his eyes to the possibilities, but every experience is a new one for Wedel, from setting a workout schedule to budgeting a $250 stipend to arranging a host family for this week’s Am. “He’s kind of figured out life on his own,” Beard said. “He hasn’t had his mom or dad there to do it for him, to say this is how it works.” On that front, though, Wedel is making a concerted effort. After drifting apart, he usually saw his father only a couple of times a year – Malibu and Sacramento are six hours apart – but in June he spent an entire week by his old man’s side. “I don’t want to look back later in life and regret not having all those deep conversations and asking enough questions,” he said. “I want to have that close relationship with him. I want my father to actually be my father.” Wedel turns 20 next week, and after his breakthrough performance here he will be the Waves’ No. 1 player, the guy with expectations to perform. After years of searching, it seems a role he’s finally ready to embrace. Earlier this week, Wedel sent his coach a text about what lies ahead: “You know I look up to you in plenty of ways. I respect you. I’ll handle the team the way you want your captain to. The culture will be changed.” Flipping through his iPhone, Beard paused and said, “Just seeing that makes you smile, you know? He’s figuring it out.”last_img read more

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Granada leads CME LPGA by 2; Lewis 3 back

first_imgNAPLES, Fla. – Stacy Lewis was three shots out of the lead Thursday and one step closer to the largest payoff in women’s golf at the CME Group Tour Championship. Lewis overcame the kind of tension she typically feels on the weekend at majors. She held it together with her short game, made a 25-foot eagle putt late in her opening round and wound up with a 3-under 69 to trail Julieta Granada by three shots. “It’s going to be a long week if we’re feeling that on Thursday,” Lewis said. There are two tournaments in one at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. Granada played bogey-free in a tough wind on the Tiburon Course for a 66 that gave her a two-shot lead over Sandra Gal in the LPGA Tour’s final tournament. The other event is the Race to CME Globe, which pays a $1 million bonus to the winner. Only the top nine players in the standings can win it, and Granada isn’t one of them. She still hopes to close out the season with her first victory in eight years. The top three players – Lewis, Inbee Park and 17-year-old Lydia Ko – need only to win the tournament for the $1 million bonus. Lewis is atop the standings, so finishing ahead of the other two is a good spot to be. Park and Ko each shot 71. “I think everybody is thinking about the $1 million,” Park said. It certainly showed at the start, especially when Lewis sent her opening tee shot well to the right. She recovered well and nearly holed a bunker shot for birdie. Conditions were tough enough that only five players broke 70, and 19 of the 69 in the field broke par. Lewis surged ahead with a hybrid from 217 yards that finished pin-high at the back of the green on the par-5 17th, and she lightly pumped her fist when it fell for eagle. All week long, the chatter has been about everything at stake at the Tour Championship. Along with the $1 million bonus, Lewis or Park could take home all the significant awards on the LPGA Tour – player of the year, Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and the money title. “It’s one good round,” Lewis said. “We’ve got a long, long way to go.” Granada knows what it’s like to be an instant millionaire. She was a 20-year-old rookie in 2006 when she captured the ADT Championship, which at the time was turned into a winner-take-all extravaganza. That remains her only LPGA victory. Granada is No. 24 in the standings, though there is plenty on the line at a tournament that still pays $500,000. CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, videos and photos “I think all the girls that have a chance, they know what they’re doing out there,” Granada said. “They’re tough and they’re good players, so they will just keep playing their game. This course is a good finish, especially with 17 being a reachable par 5.” Of the top nine in the standings who have a mathematical shot at the $1 million, only three failed to break par. Defending champion Shanshan Feng (No. 6) and Karrie Webb (No. 9) each had a 74, while Anna Nordqvist (No. 7) shot 77. So Yeon Ryu (No. 5) had a 70. U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie, who is fourth in the standings, opened with two early birdies and was in good shape until a double bogey from a bunker on No. 16 and a bogey on the 17th, which felt like giving up two shots to the field. She was at 72. Lewis thought she easily could have been 3 over through three holes, so toiling for pars at least calmed her down for a challenging day. “Those first three or four holes, my swing was fine. I just wasn’t trusting what I was doing,” Lewis said. “You’re worried about making a mistake or a big number. That was the hardest part. … I don’t know if Lydia quite understands all that’s going on, but you could see it in Inbee and probably in me, too. We both played some tentative golf today, and hopefully, we can both free it up as we go throughout the week.” Park made 15 pars in what she called a “boring round” with plenty of birdie chances and very few marked on her card. Just like Lewis, though, the five-time major champion didn’t shoot herself out of the tournament. “Just happy that I still have a chance to win everything,” Park said. “I’m going to play very hard the next three days.”last_img read more

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Spieth’s 64 gives him a reprieve from a MC

first_imgSILVIS, Ill. – Through 22 holes at TPC Deere Run, Jordan Spieth looked aggravated and played uninspired. An early exit was a very real possibility and an earlier-than-planned trip across the pond would have been worth consideration. Then he flagged his approach and tapped in for birdie at the par-4 14th. “I had like a 2-footer to get going,” he said. And off he went. Spieth went on a tear, playing a seven-hole stretch from No. 14 to No. 2 in 6 under on Friday. It was part of a 7-under 64 that got him off the cut line and into contention at the John Deere Classic. Quote Spieth: “Solid round when I needed to play well just to avoid going home.” The latter option looked like a real possibility after an opening 71 left him eight shots out of the lead. Spieth admitted after Thursday’s round that he was shaking off a decent amount rust that had built up during his post-U.S. Open break. He took a full week off from golf of any kind to head to the Bahamas and then spent the next week exclusively in the practice area.                Asked what changed from Thursday to Friday: “Just another round of golf,” he answered. “This is the third round of golf I’ve played since the U.S. Open, with the pro-am Wednesday being the first full round and then yesterday. It’s just repetitions. I’m getting on-course reps, and it’s making a difference.” John Deere: Articles, photos and videos The real difference was his putter, which refused to cooperate in Round 1 and then wouldn’t stop pouring the ball in the hole in Round 2. Spieth needed to use it only 25 times Friday, compared to the 31 he needed Thursday, when he missed seven birdie chances from inside 15 feet. He went from 125th in the strokes gained-putting in Round 1 to first in Round 2. Yes, the 2-footer at No. 14 got him going, but it was his birdie make from 24 feet on the par-3 16th that set him up for a run. “That putt on 16 was really big,” he said. “I knew I had a lot of birdie holes left, but I knew I needed to steal one that I maybe didn’t think I could get. And then, obviously, from there, that stretch of 18-1-2 went perfect.” Perfect as in birdie-birdie-eagle. He made three straight 3s, capped off by an eagle at the par-5 second. After finding the fairway, Spieth ripped a second shot from 241 yards that landed short of the hole and rolled to 4 feet. It was his first red number of any kind on a par 5 this week, after turning in two-putt pars on each of his first five attempts. He seemed poised to add yet another birdie at the uphill par-3 third but – at that point surprisingly – missed a putt from 8 feet. It was a miss that nearly stalled his momentum. Spieth, for the second time in as many days, smacked his drive at the par-4 fourth off the tree that splits the middle of the fairway. The ball bounded into the right rough and could barely be seen from just a few feet away. Unable to get any spin on the ball, he couldn’t hold the green. After how poorly he chipped Thursday – it was his short game he spent the most time bemoaning after that round – Spieth seemed poised to give a shot back. Instead, he hit a high flop 4 feet from the cup, sank the putt, and got out of there. Two holes later, following a birdie at 5, he made his worst swing of the day with an iron, pulling his approach from the middle of the fairway well left of the green and nearly into an unplayable area. This time the flop didn’t get nearly as close. Staring at a 12-footer, he made it again. Those two par saves and Nos. 4 and 6 kept what could have been a leaky ship afloat and immediately led to birdies on both 5 and 7. With the putter and the wedge game looking typically sharp, Spieth will need to clean up his play off the tee if he wants to win his second Deere title this weekend. In addition to the mishap at No. 4, he clipped a tree at 17, and wound up lucky to make par after a 180-yard drive. His only dropped shot of the day, at the par-4 eighth, was set up by a wayward drive that required a pitch-out. “I’m still searching for answers with the driver,” he admitted. “My driver is not treating me well this week.” Neither did the putter and wedges on Thursday. And look what happened Friday.last_img read more

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Willett, Fitzpatrick lead Euro Masters by 2

first_imgCRANS MONTANA, Switzerland – English golfers Matthew Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett will carry a two-shot lead into the final round of the European Masters. Willett started the third round on Saturday with a one-shot lead, but had two bogeys and a double bogey in his first four holes. There were two more bogeys coming in, but a 30-foot eagle on the 15th limited the damage to a 1-over-par 71. He was at 12 under for the tournament with Fitzpatrick, the former U.S. Amateur champion who came through Q School to enjoy his first year on the European Tour. Fitzpatrick climbed into contention with a 64. Four-time tour winner Raphael Jacquelin of France was third at 10 under thanks to a 68, and defending champion David Lipsky of the U.S. was alone in fourth on 9 under after a 69, despite starting and finishing with bogeys. Patrick Reed (69), Sergio Garcia (66), and Lee Westwood (68) trailed by seven shots in a big group tied for 16th.last_img read more

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McIlroy closes within 1 of Turkish Airlines Open lead

first_imgANTALYA, Turkey – Rory McIlroy shot a third straight 5-under 67 Saturday to move to within one stroke of the leaders after the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Jaco van Zyl of South Africa maintained a share of the lead after a 70 to sit tied with Victor Dubuisson (67) on 16-under 200. McIlroy dropped his first shots of the tournament with bogeys on Nos. 3 and 10 but also had five birdies and an eagle on the 13th. “I feel if I play the same way and execute a little bit better, there’s definitely a lower score out there for me,” the four-time major winner said. “I got off to a bit of a slow start. I don’t know why. I just felt very lethargic out there today and couldn’t really get any energy. To finish the way I did was very pleasing because I needed to dig in deep and finish the round off well, which I did.” Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (66) shared third place with McIlroy. Van Zyl has led since carding a 61 in the first round and was at 16 under after 28 holes. He has now played the last 26 holes in even par as he pursues his first European Tour title. “It was kind of a slow day out there today,” the South African said. “I did what I needed to do on some holes and let a couple opportunities slip on the back nine.” Dubuisson’s only tour victory came at the Turkish Airlines Open in 2013, and he is trying to rediscover some form after earning just two top-10 finishes in 2015. “My long game has been really, really good since the beginning of the year, but my short game was just really, really bad,” Dubuisson said. “I changed my putter a month and a half ago and today was a great performance. … This is a course I feel great on.”last_img read more

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Japan’s Uehara takes lead in NW Ark. Championship

first_imgROGERS, Ark. – One of Ayako Uehara’s best memories in her four full-time LPGA seasons is a hole-in-one she made in her first appearance at the NW Arkansas Championship in 2013. Uehara added to her growing list of memorable moments at Pinnacle Country Club by shooting a career-best 62 in the opening round Friday. The 9-under round matched the course record and gave the Japanese player a two-stroke lead, a remarkable position for a player who entered the week ranked 214th in the world after struggling with her game for much of the year. Uehara needed only 25 putts and made nine birdies in her bogey-free round, a score that bested her previous career low of 63 she posted in Malaysia in 2014. That was a year after her first appearance in northwest Arkansas, where she holed out on the par-3 17th on her way to a 25th-place finish. It’s a moment she’s relived countless times since, especially in the days leading to the start of this week’s tournament. ”Since I got here this year, I’ve been watching this video of this hole-in-one many times,” Uehara said. ”Also, I show my caddie.” Taiwan’s Candie Kung had a 64, and 13 players shot 65. Uehara will tee off Saturday afternoon in pursuit of her first career victory, and at the very least looking to earn only her fourth career top-10 finish in 76 tournaments. ”The course conditions will be different, so we have to make good judgment decisions and we’ll go from there,” Uehara said. Playing in muggy conditions after overnight rain, Uehara took advantage of the soft greens during the morning to match the course record of 62 set by Angela Park and Jane Park in 2008. Uehara, whose best finish in an LPGA event is third in Japan in the 2012 Mizuno Classic, missed the cut in eight of her first nine tournaments to begin this year. However, she entered this weekend having finished 39th or better in five of her last six events – an improvement in play she carried over to Friday. After a pair of birdies on her opening nine, Uehara birdied four of the first five holes after the turn, including three straight to reach 7 under. She then reached 9 under with a closing birdie on the par-4 ninth, capping a round in which she hit 11 of 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Uehara finished 4 under at the NW Arkansas Championship during her rookie season in 2013, tying for 25th. However, she missed the cut at the event in each of the last two seasons before putting together her career-best round on Friday. Top-ranked Lydia Ko opened the tournament with a 5-under 66, while local favorite Stacy Lewis shot a 4-under 67. Ko and Lewis were paired together with Minjee Lee – who finished with a 65 – and the trio attracted the largest gallery of the morning at the 6,330-yard Pinnacle Country Club. Lewis, the former world No. 1 who played collegiately at nearby Arkansas, hasn’t won since her victory in the event two years ago. However, she continued to draw large cheers of ”Woo Pig Sooie” from the Razorbacks fans and finished with the 67. She had 31 putts, missing an 8-foot birdie attempt on her final hole of the day. Ko, meanwhile, closed her round with a flurry while in search of her third victory of the year. The New Zealander, after opening on the back nine, eagled the par-5 seventh with a 35-foot putt, and she recovered from a poor chip and bogey on No. 8 with a short birdie putt on the ninth. Second-ranked Brooke Henderson shot a 69. She beat Ko in a playoff two weeks ago in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship outside Seattle. Michelle Wie had a 71, and defending champion Na Yeon Choi shot 75.last_img read more

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Rory, Day, Phil: Game plans differ, so do results

first_imgSPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Baltusrol is a big hitter’s golf course. Baltusrol demands a driver that is equal parts long and straight. Baltusrol is no place for the timid. That’s been the company line this week at the PGA Championship, echoed by any and all who have been asked; yet on Thursday with scorecards in hand three of the game’s longest played the New Jersey gem with three vastly different styles. The most glaring example of this divergent game plan unfolded when the threesome of Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson stepped to the 18th tee midway through their opening round (they teed off on No. 10). Rory McIlroy did what Rory McIlroy does, launching a driver high into the hot and humid skies 320 yards, but missed the fairway. Day, however, teed off with a 3-iron, finding the fairway some 40 yards behind the Northern Irishman. Day would par the hole, going with 3-iron with his second shot that sailed wide into an awkward lie. McIlroy also made par. It was the story of Day 1 for the high profile three-ball, with Day taking a decidedly measured approach to a course that by all accounts rewards power over all else. McIlroy went with a game plan that, when clicking, has delivered majors by ridiculously large margins. It was a scheme that made sense given the prevailing thoughts on Baltusrol. A blueprint that could have sent the brutish course and the field spinning had his long game cooperated – but it did not. On this sweltering day McIlroy found just 9 of 14 fairways and struggled to a 4-over 74 despite being among the field’s top 10 in driving distance (308 yard average).  “I obviously want to play well, but I was trying my hardest out there to make birdies, and I was giving myself chances in the last few holes, and didn’t quite convert them,” said McIlroy, who failed to make a birdie for the first time in 29 rounds at the PGA Championship. “Hopefully I’m not shutout tomorrow. I can’t remember the last round I had without a birdie.” By comparison, Day hit just five drivers on Friday and although he connected with 8 of 14 fairways his misses were manageable enough that he was able to find 17 of 18 greens in regulation. PGA Championship: Full-field tee times | Photo gallery Full coverage from the PGA Championship “If I can get iron in my hand, get it down the middle, give myself an opportunity, that’s the main goal,” said Day, who was a half dozen strokes better than McIlroy after a 2-under 68. Although he managed just a single practice round this week at Baltusrol, the byproduct of feeling under the weather when he arrived in New Jersey from last week’s RBC Canadian Open, that conservative approach was set in motion after his caddie, Colin Swatton, walked the course earlier this week. “I told him there are one of two ways to play this course, be aggressive or try to play to your strengths, which is his iron game,” Swatton said. It quickly became clear Day opted for the latter in his quest to become the first player to win back-to-back PGA Championships since Tiger Woods in 2007. But then Day has long adhered to the slow and steady approach when it comes to major championships despite a power game that ranks alongside McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. “It’s probably a little bit more conservative than I usually am, only because it’s a major championship,” said Day, who was three strokes off the early lead when he completed his round. “Any given week on the PGA Tour, there’s usually a guy that gets to 7 or 8 under. I think with a major championship, you have got to be patient, take your opportunities when you can and work yourself up to the lead come Sunday.” Mickelson, the third member of the morning’s marquis threesome, seemed to embrace a strategy somewhere in between Day and McIlroy, but if he became more aggressive later in his round it was likely the byproduct of a dismal start. Lefty bogeyed his first hole, added two more miscues before the turn and was 4 over through 11 holes before he finally turned things around. “When you get into a major championship and the penalty for a miss is severe, it’s very easy to steer it, try to control it and not swing freely,” said Mickelson after rallying late to finish with a 1-over 71. “That was what I did early on today, I kind of steered a lot of shots. I didn’t swing freely. Took me a little while, I kind of got into the flow there towards the end.” Those who crunch numbers will point to McIlroy’s putting, more so than his driver, that cost him on Thursday and there’s certainly something to that. McIlroy finished with 35 putts and was spotting the field 3.82 shots in the strokes gained-putting statistic midway through Round 1; but then that ignores Day’s own troubles on the greens. The world No. 1 took 33 putts and was minus 1.57 shots in strokes gained-putting and yet was still in contention. Arm-chair quarterbacking only goes so far when it comes to how players plod their way around golf courses and in fairness to McIlroy, and Mickelson, any plan is only as good as the execution. Yet the results on Thursday were rather straightforward. Among the dichotomy of game plans Day’s less-is-more approach was more than enough for big, bad Baltusrol.last_img read more

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Newsmaker: No. 9, Rules of Golf

first_imgIt wouldn’t be a full list of Newsmakers without including the Rules of Golf, which once again became the focal point of several key tournaments and now, it seems, may be simplified in the near future. The rule book took center stage at the ANA Inspiration, where a ball-marking gaffe of inches led to a critical four-shot penalty for Lexi Thompson. It became a hotly-debated topic, as a viewer call-in essentially determined the outcome of a major championship, and weeks later the USGA and R&A implemented a “reasonable judgment” standard to limit the power of video replay reviews. That action came months after the governing bodies announced a plan to simplify the rule book beginning in 2019. The proposed changes would eliminate penalties for tapping down spike marks, removing loose impediments in a hazard or hitting the flagstick while on the green. The dozens of new changes also included limiting the time for a lost ball search and allowing players to crouch near ground level when dropping out of a hazard. Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year While the new changes received ample discussion, the rules in their current form still grabbed plenty of headlines over the summer. Jon Rahm was embroiled in not one but two rules controversies, first during his win at the Irish Open and again over moving a loose impediment at The Open. The PGA Tour curiously picked the Zurich Classic team event to hand out its first slow-play penalty in more than 20 years, while Bryson DeChambeau’s attempt to bring side-saddled putting back into style was hampered by the USGA. But perhaps the biggest rules storyline gained traction near the end of the year, as a chorus of voices continued to call for the ever-advancing golf ball to be rolled back. Players from Tiger Woods to Dustin Johnson threw their support behind the notion of using a reduced-distance tournament ball for professionals, while USGA chief executive Mike Davis seemed open to just such a possibility when citing the increased costs associated with maintaining bigger and longer courses. Whether 400-yard drives soon become a thing of the past or a shorter list of decisions leads to more enjoyable rounds, one thing remains clear: the impact of the Rules of Golf won’t be rolled back anytime soon. USGA and R&A propose significant changes to simplify Rules of Golf Article: USGA, R&A reveal proposed changes to Rules of Golf Article: Full list of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf Article: Reactions from Tiger, others on proposed rules changes USGA: New rules easier to read and apply Player reaction to new rules ‘largely positive’ Lexi Thompson loses in ANA Inspiration playoff after controversial four-stroke penalty Article: Weeks later, Lexi ruling still a heated topic Article: Lexi breaks down discussing ANA penalty Thompson assessed four-stroke penalty a day later Lexi breaks down in tears discussing ANA penalty Jon Rahm embroiled in two rules controversies Article: Rahm stands by ball mark mechanics after Irish Open controversy Article: Rahm skirts another rules infraction at Open Watch the Jon Rahm ball-placement controversy at Irish Open Rules official McFee: Rahm was off by ‘millimeters’ Debate rages over distance of golf ball, courses Article: USGA’s Davis calls impact of course expansion ‘horrible’ Article: USGA’s Davis considers ‘variable distance golf ball’ Tiger, DJ in favor of limiting golf ball distance Titleist CEO fires back at Davis over golf ball distance Bryson DeChambeau spars with USGA over non-conforming putter Article: One of DeChambeau’s side-saddle putters deemed non-conforming Article: DeChambeau blames USGA amid putting style switch Article: DeChambeau tweets apology for USGA remarks PGA Tour hands out first slow-play penalty in 22 yearslast_img read more

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Aussie rookie Murray warms up in pro shop, shoots 63 to lead NZ Open

first_imgARROWTOWN, New Zealand – Australian rookie Zach Murray shot an 8-under 63, the best round of his fledgling professional career, to share the first-round lead at the 100th New Zealand Open on Thursday with Ryuko Tokimatsu and Harry Bateman. The 21-year-old from Wodonga in Victoria state, who turned pro in October, had four birdies on each nine. Tokimatsu birdied the last two holes to claim his share of the lead, while Bateman eagled the 17th and birdied the 18th in the last group of the day to ensure New Zealand had a player atop the leaderboard in its centenary Open. Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open Murray was unaffected by cool conditions which saw new snowfall on The Remarkables mountain range which surrounds The Hills golf course at Arrowtown in New Zealand’s South Island. He tried to purchase a thermal top at the pro shop but it had none in his size. ”It was a strange warm-up for me,” Murray said. ”I hit about five balls and I was like ‘I’m not going to get warm’ and so I just sat in the pro shop and waited until the sun came out, hit a couple of putts and off I went. I do that back at home when I’m just playing with my mates so I suppose I might have to do that more often.” Japan’s Kodai Ichihara is in fourth place after a 65, two strokes behind. Three players share fourth place after 66s – Panuphol Pittayarat and Australians Ashley Hall and Maverick Antcliff.last_img read more

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