November 23, 2015
Rory McIlroy is done messing around with his career. It's all business from here.
After winning the DP World Tour Championship and the European Tour's Race to Dubai for the third time in four years on Sunday, McIlroy, who has four worldwide wins in 2015, is looking to carry that winning momentum not only into next year but through the rest of the prime of his career.
That renewed focus means eschewing things like playing soccer, an activity which, in July, cost McIlroy a title defense at the British Open and a realistic chance at contending at the PGA Championship. In the wake of McIlroy's injury and recovery, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day stepped up, both overtaking McIlroy in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"I had a big lead in the world rankings and you see Jordan and Jason play the way they did. Fields are so deep, you can't let up at all," McIlroy told the BBC after his victory.
"Tagging along with that, you know, this is my time to capitalize on my career. The next 10, 15 years is my time. I really can't be doing silly things like playing football in the middle of the season to jeopardize even six months of my career. It's a big chunk where I could make some hay and win a major or two."
McIlroy should know. In 2014, he pulled the second-half double, winning a Claret Jug and a second Wanamaker Trophy. Heading into 2016, he is a green jacket away from the career Grand Slam.
And Spieth and Day are only two, albeit very talented, players in a time when golf's list of champions is expanding and getting younger. Needless to say, McIlroy has no room for lollygagging.
McIlroy said, "I won't be making those mistakes again next year."
November 08, 2015
The start to this new PGA Tour season is unprecedented.
For the first time in Tour history, four first-time winners have won the first four events of the season: Emiliano Grillo at the Frys.com Open, Smylie Kaufman in Las Vegas, Justin Thomas at the CIMB Classic and Russell Knox on Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Going back to 1960, there had never been more than two first-timers to win in the first four events of a PGA Tour season, back in 1980 and 1990. The '80 season was the only prior season in that span where the first two events were won by breakthrough champions.
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Even with this never-before-seen start to a season, there's still a long way to go before this year could topple the record 18 first-time winners in 2002. However, the beginning quartet of the 2015-16 season is reminiscent of a trend toward more and more first-time winners. Since 2010, there have been double-digit first-time winners during the PGA Tour season, except in 2012, with 11 maiden champions last season.
While the Scot Knox continues the streak of newbie winners, he also breaks another sign-of-the-times streak. At 30 years old, Knox is the first PGA Tour winner outside of his 20s in the last eight tournaments, dating back to when Jason Day kicked off the FedEx Cup playoffs with a win at The Barclays.
November 08, 2015
Russell Knox picked up his first PGA Tour win on Sunday, taking the WGC-HSBC Champions by two shots over Kevin Kisner.
Knox, who first finished his third round early on Sunday with a closing birdie to tie Kisner, shot 4-under 68 in the final round to outmatch Kisner's 70 to finish on 20-under 268.
"China is now my favorite place in the world," Knox said. "I can't wait to come back here. For me, this now my favorite golf course and I'm over the moon."
The win marks the first for a Scot in a World Golf Championships event and only the second time in WGC history that a winner earned their first PGA Tour title in a series event. Knox said afterward that he saw it coming, just didn't know when.
"It sounds unbelievable," he said. "I always kind of thought I was going to win a big one, for some reason, as my first one."
Englishmen Danny Willett, who closed with a tournament-best 10-under 62, and Ross Fisher ended up tied for third at 17-under par.
Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace tied for fifth at 16 under, while Jordan Spieth, who shot 63 on Saturday to jump into contention, could only manage 70 on Sunday to get into a four-way tie for seventh with Patrick Reed, Matthew Fitzpatrick and 20-year-old Li Haotong, who recorded the best PGA Tour finish by a Chinese-born player. Spieth's finish is good enough to leapfrog Jason Day and again become the top-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"With the amount of preparation I put into it, I'm extremely pleased," Spieth said. "I feel like I got the most out of the week."
Rory McIlroy closed with 66 to finish on 14 under par, in a tie for 11th. Combined with Willett's T-3 finish, the European Tour's Race to Dubai is tighter. McIlroy's lead is now just 74,213 points (McIlroy has played in 11 events to Willett's 21), with Willett playing in next week's BMW Masters while McIlroy rests. The Ulsterman is resigned to potentially losing his edge heading into the season finale in Dubai, where he has locked up the season-long points race two of the last three years.
"He's playing next week and I'm not, so no matter what happened today, he has a good chance to maybe overtake me next week," McIlroy said. "I'm just with the mind-set that I need to go to Dubai and win and whatever happens from there, that's all I can do."
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October 28, 2015
Rory McIlroy is back to his normal self. He's hitting the golf ball as long and straight as ever. He's working out with the kind of intensity he showed before injuring his ankle in July.
And he's struggling to putt.
The world No. 3, playing in this week's Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour, has been working on his approach on the greens, admitting that his problem isn't technique so much as mindset.
“I think it’s more mental than anything else,” he said. “Whenever you don’t see anything go in, it makes it harder and harder each and every hole that goes by.”
McIlroy is hoping to free up his mind, not putting so much pressure on himself. However, the Ulsterman also admitted that putting isn't going to be is his strength.
“I feel I’m a good putter. I feel like I hole out well," he said. "I definitely hole out much better than I used to do. And when I get my eye in, I’m really good. But I don’t get my eye in as much as I’d like to. I’ll always be somewhat of a streaky putter.”
Starting with this week, the four-time major winner will play in three of four European Tour Final Series events, including the WGC-HSBC Champions and DP World Tour Championship. He'll be playing while world No. 1 Jason Day and No. 2 Jordan Spieth sit on the sidelines, resting after a long year. However, McIlroy isn't concerned about making up lost ground these next few weeks.
"I'm not thinking about those guys," McIlroy said. "I'm just concentrating on myself and trying to get my game back to where I know that it can be, and if I can do that, then all the rest of that stuff will sort of take care of itself."
At a minimum, however, McIlroy wants to snag a trophy in this three-event stretch to close the European Tour season. Ideally, McIlroy would win the season-long Race to Dubai for a third time in four years.
"I'm just trying to finish the season off well. I'd like to win the Race to Dubai for a third time, that would be a great achievement," he said.
"I'd like to win at least one of these last three events that I'm playing. That would make me feel better about the end of the year."
Jordan Spieth will skip next year's Farmers Insurance Open to play in the revived Singapore Open, an event that hasn't been played in three years.
The event, to be played Jan. 28-31, 2016, will have a purse of at least $1 million. The two-time 2015 major winner will receive a hefty appearance fee.
"Playing in the SMBC Singapore Open is something I'm really looking forward to," Spieth said in a statement released Tuesday by tournament organizers. "I'm very fortunate to play golf around the world and can't wait to visit Singapore for the first time."
The tournament will be co-sanctioned by the Asian and Japan Golf Tours.
Spieth has played in the Farmers Insurance Open in each of the last three years, with the tournament offering the 22-year-old an exemption into the event for his professional debut in 2013. He missed the cut that week, as well this year, when Jason Day won the first of five PGA Tour events during the 2014-15 season. Spieth had a chance to win the 2014 event, played on both courses at Torrey Pines near San Diego, but back-to-back weekend 75s dropped him into a tie for 19th place.
October 18, 2015
Jordan Spieth and Jason Day didn't play competitive golf this weekend. Nonetheless, they swapped places on Sunday in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Day is the new No. 1 in golf's ranking of record, taking the spot back that Spieth earned with his win at the Tour Championship, which clinched the FedEx Cup in September. Rory McIlroy, who finished T-26 at the Frys.com Open on Sunday, remains third.
So, how does this keep happening? Here's a brief -- as we can make it -- explanation of the Official World Golf Ranking formula.
The OWGR formula is computed over a rolling 104-week (or two-year) basis. Players earn points when they compete based on two factors: the strength of field, as determined primarily by the number of top 200 players in an event, and where they finish in a tournament. When players earn points, they maintain their full value for 13 weeks, or one-quarter of a year. In the 14th week after points are earned, they start to lose value in equal increments for the next 91 weeks, before they become worthless. A player's ranking is based on how many points they have banked currently over the number of tournaments they've played in the current 104-week period.
If you got through that, then this part should be easy. Since tournaments don't always fall on the same date and players don't always keep the same schedules from year to year, there are times when players lose more points than expected and suddenly change ranking. It just so happens, in this case, to wind up with the top two players in the world swapping places.
Spieth took No. 1 from McIlroy after his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship. After a two-week reign, Spieth ceded the top spot back to the Ulsterman after The Barclays, in which McIlroy didn't play. Spieth then got it back a week later. McIlroy got it back for the off week of the PGA Tour playoffs. Day took No. 1 after winning the BMW Championship. Then Spieth's East Lake win got him back to No. 1.
And this kind of thing will keep happening for a while. Day won't play again until the Hero World Challenge in December. Spieth will play that event and, before it, the WGC-HSBC Champions. McIlroy could pass them both by virtue of his finishes in the European Tour's four-event Race to Dubai Finals Series.
United States Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas picked one-quarter of his team, and those picks repaid him by accounting for almost half of the victorious team's points.
Haas selected his son Bill, who was 11th in points, and Phil Mickelson, a controversial pick who finished 30th in the points standings, with his initial wild-card picks. When Jim Furyk had to pull out of the event with a wrist bone bruise, Haas went to J.B. Holmes, who finished 12th in points. As it turned out, those selections were brilliant.
J.B. Holmes won 2.5 points, including forming a formidable duo with fellow long-hitter Bubba Watson.
Phil Mickelson didn't lose any of his four matches, only costing his team a half-point with a Friday miscue over improperly using a second golf ball model while teaming with Zach Johnson against Jason Day and Adam Scott. Mickelson drubbed a hapless Charl Schwartzel in his Sunday singles match by a 5-and-4 count.
Bill Haas clinched the winning point in the anchor match on Sunday, defeating Sangmoon Bae, one of two native-born South Koreans on the team.
Mickelson, who accounted for 3.5 points, said the U.S. loves these weeks, with him considering the team matches his favorites on the calendar. He's just hoping that he won't need to get a nod from 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III come next fall at Hazeltine.
"I'm certainly looking forward to next year's Ryder Cup, as well, and I hope that I don't put the captain in a position where he has to pick me this time," he said. "I hope that I will be able to make it on my own."
Haas was perhaps happiest of all of his teammates afterward, considering he locked up the sixth consecutive American win in the biennial series and the win for his dad, who told his son to "win one for [his] mom."
"To be in this position and the way it all worked out was a very great moment for me and my dad, and certainly the whole team," Haas said. "I'm lucky to be a part of this team and to get picked, and I'm just happy I could help the team out with one point there on Sunday. It feels great."
October 09, 2015
Now we have ourselves a ballgame in South Korea.
The Internationals, desperate after losing Day 1 of the Presidents Cup to the U.S. by a 4-1 count, made a strong comeback in the Friday session of five fourball (best ball) matches, cutting the American lead to a point a 5.5-4.5 through 10 matches.
Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, clearly the most potent beat world No. 1 Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson by a 4-and-3 count in the opening match to set the tone. In the second match, Korean Sangmoon Bae and Kiwi-by-way-of-Korea Danny Lee riled up the South Korean crowd and took home a point against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, the hard-luck duo that plays opponents close but cannot seem to finish off matches. Thongchai Jaidee and Charl Schwartzel took home the final full point for the Internationals in the anchor match of the session against Chris Kirk and Bill Haas, both who sat out on Thursday.
For the United States, J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson earned their second full point in as many tries, scoring a 2-up win over Marc Leishman and Steve Bowdtich. And, despite the rules kerfuffle on the seventh hole that caused them to lose one hole twice, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson managed a halve against Jason Day and Adam Scott.
The Saturday scene is a full slate of matches, featuring two four-match sessions -- one of fourballs, one of foursomes, with foursomes leading.
Here's a look at the morning slate, which started at 8 a.m. local time after a weather delay:
Match 11: Patrick Reed/Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Louis Oosthuizen/Branden Grace (Int'l) -- Fowler and Walker get broken up because they can't win, so Fowler gets another fiery partner in Patrick Reed to take on the South African duo of Ooshtuizen and Grace. At this point, the South Africans have supreme confidence, and you can pencil them in for the lead slot in the afternoon, too.
Match 12: J.B. Holmes/Bubba Watson (USA) vs. Adam Scott/Marc Leishman (Int'l) -- International captain Nick Price cannot seem to find a good partner for Scott, whose putting hasn't been good despite the switch to a traditional-length putter. Watson and Holmes run a brilliant golf detective agency, snooping out points. They should win this.
Match 13: Bill Haas/Matt Kuchar (USA) vs. Sangmoon Bae/Hideki Matsuyama (Int'l) -- Haas and Kuchar weren't successful in their opening matches with different partners, so captain Jay Haas put them together in hopes of creating hard-luck winners. Bae was brilliant down the stretch on Friday, so Price must be hoping Matsuyama's ballstriking can set up some clutch Bae putts.
Match 14: Dustin Johnson/Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Jason Day/Charl Schwartzel (Int'l) -- Johnson and Spieth looked tired and out of sync on Friday, but looked brilliant in the alternate-shot format. Haas is hoping for a similar result this time around, while Day draws Schwartzel, who was helpful in teaming with Jaidee.
October 09, 2015
A lot of folks were confused when Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson somehow managed to lose the seventh hole twice during their Friday fourballs (best ball) match against Jason Day and Adam Scott at the Presidents Cup. So, let's put it into perspective.
Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot on the par 5 at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea using a model of golf ball different than what he had used in the prior six holes of the match. Mickelson was looking for extra distance, so he picked a ball that would spin less in the wind.
However, it came to Mickelson's attention before he hit his approach shot that he had violated what's called the One Ball Rule. The One Ball Rule requires players to use the same model of ball -- though not the original ball they started with -- through a round. The One Ball Rule isn't an official rule in golf's rulebook, but rather is called a Condition of Competition, an extra stipulation that's often added to high-level competitions. Since the One Ball Rule isn't always in play -- including not at the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup when played in the U.S. -- Mickelson should have thought to ask if it was in play for the Presidents Cup. It is.
It was at that point that a PGA Tour rules official with the group told Mickelson he had been disqualified from playing the seventh hole and should pick up his ball, which Mickelson did. That left Johnson to go it alone against the Internationals, and his par was not good enough to beat Day's birdie. Losing the hole put the American duo 1 down in the match. Then, on the eighth tee, the rules official had more bad news. Under Rule 33-1 of the Rules of Golf, which identifies and establishes Conditions of Competition, the U.S. team was subject to a "status of match adjustment" for Mickelson's violation of the One Ball Rule. The punishment? The loss of a hole. That meant the U.S. lost the seventh hole twice.
Later, there was insult added to injury. Mark Russell, PGA Tour head of rules and competitions, informed U.S. captain Jay Haas that the rules official for the match had given Mickelson a bad ruling. He should have been allowed to finish the seventh hole with his illegal ball, then the penalty of the one-hole loss should have been applied, meaning the U.S. should have been given full opportunity to win a hole they'd then automatically lose after the fact because of the violation.
Ultimately, the U.S. halved the match, in part because Mickelson played the next several holes in spectacular fashion, including a bomb of a putt on the 11th hole and holing out his second shot on the 12th for eagle from a fairway bunker.
The rules controversy -- combined with the Internationals winning the session 3.5-1.5 -- added some intrigue to what, after Thursday, appeared to be another U.S. squash in a bland series. Then Mickelson threw some more fuel on the budding fire after the match.
"I feel like we spotted the Internationals' best team two holes," he said, "and they still couldn't beat us. Just saying."
The U.S. Presidents Cup team carries a huge 4-1 edge into Day 2 of the Presidents Cup after winning all but one of five alternate-shot matches on Thursday in South Korea. The format changes for the Friday (Thursday night in the U.S.) slate of matches, switching to fourballs, also known as best ball.
The strategy for American captain Jay Haas is pretty simple: keep his winners in action. All four winning U.S. teams play together again on Friday, while the lone losing duo of Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed head to the bench so Haas' son Bill and Chris Kirk can team together.
[Presidents Cup: Get the latest scores of Team USA and International Team]
International captain Nick Price slotted his only winning team, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, in the lead position to take on the American duo of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. Sangmoon Bae, the only man on the team who calls Korea home, gets in the lineup on Friday, teaming with Danny Lee, a New Zealander who was born in the host nation. Hideki Matsuyama and Anirban Lahiri head to the bench.
Here's a look at the Friday docket:
Match 6 (9:35 a.m. local time/8:35 p.m. Eastern) -- Dustin Johnson/Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Louis Oosthizen/Branden Grace (Intl) -- This should be the best match of the day. However, when Johnson gets in trouble, he doesn't have Spieth to bail him out. And Spieth has to play off his own tee shots. So, their edge, really in foursomes, is somewhat mitigated against an all-South African team that clearly can feed off of each other.
Match 7 (9:50 a.m. local/8:50 p.m. Eastern) -- Rickie Fowler/Jimmy Walker (USA) vs. Danny Lee/Sangmoon Bae (Intl) -- Sangmoon Bae finally gets some action, teaming up with Danny Lee. This is a good spot for them, hopefully a spark for the South Korean crowd that desperately needs to offer some life for the Internationals. Fowler and Walker have proven to be a great duo, so they're the right team for the home-country pair.
Match 8 (10:05 a.m. local/9:05 p.m. Eastern) -- Zach Johnson/Phil Mickelson (USA) vs. Adam Scott/Jason Day (Intl) -- For some reason, Mickelson and Johnson worked in alternate shot. The pairing doesn't matter as much in fourballs, but their splendid short games should be a good mutual crutch. Scott rolled the ball OK with the traditional-length putter on Day 1, but the putts wouldn't drop. Paired with a top-notch ballstriker like Day, Scott should feel more confidence on the greens.
Match 9 (10:20 a.m./9:20 p.m. Eastern) -- J.B. Holmes/Bubba Watson (USA) vs. Marc Leishman/Steven Bowditch (Intl) -- Holmes and Watson put on a short-game clinic in their Thursday match against Scott and Matsuyama, who were hapless with the putter. They should do even better in this format, where they can be even more aggressive with their similar power. Leishman and Bowditch are both Aussies, which may create some extra chemistry, but neither player has been hot of late.
Match 10 (10:35 a.m./9:35 a.m. Eastern) -- Bill Haas/Chris Kirk (USA) vs. Thongchai Jaidee/Charl Schwartzel (Intl) -- Haas and Kirk get in the game for the first time, and Haas will likely be motivated to play well in front of his dad. Who wouldn't feel that way? Meanwhile, Schwartzel gets his first action, too, after dealing with flu-like symptoms that kept him (and Bae) out on Thursday. Expect the U.S. to cruise.
Coverage begins in the U.S. at 8:30 p.m. on Golf Channel.