Changing of the guard in pro golf

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

KOHLER, Wis. – Used to be, you showed up at a major and first thing you asked was, "How's Tiger doing?" Second thing you asked, "How's Phil doing?"

Right now, in front of our very eyes and hi-definition televisions and witnessed by the birds of Lake Michigan here at Whistling Straits, the questions are beginning to change. As we barrel into the final day of major championship golf in the summer of 2010, we find ourselves at these majors beginning to ask, "How's Rory doing?" And, after that: "How's Dustin doing?"

Rory, Dustin, Nick – that's Nick Watney, your 54-hole leader at 13-under, three clear of McIlroy and Johnson – these are the new names of a new decade.

The transformation of the game is under way, construction work on the game's identity not unlike the scale of work done by Whistling Straits architect Pete Dye to build this faux Irish links in the heart of Cheeseland. Tiger Woods has a knee with surgical scars and a psyche with too many scars to count. He's 10 shots back. Phil Mickelson showed up here this week and told everyone he has a form of arthritis. He's 40 years old and 11 shots back.

Meantime, there were Rory and Dustin on a Saturday binge at the PGA Championship, both firing 67s, with Johnson playing his way into the final twosome with Watney and McIlroy playing his way into the penultimate twosome with China's Wenchong Liang (course-record 64).

They're hard to miss, those two. They played together, chatting away, old friends since they met in the 2007 Walker Cup at Rory's home course, Royal County Down, in Northern Ireland. Three years later, at the year's final major, they were Saturday story lines. McIlroy was the one in the red shirt with the Peter Brady locks spilling out from under his white cap, Johnson was the one in the sky blue shirt and white slacks, a hipster soul patch under his lip letting you know the 21st century has come to the royal and ancient game.

While Tiger and Phil are wracked by pain both physical and mental, Rory and Dustin showcased golf swings absurdly free of any form of restraint, nearly bragging of their birth certificates with their monster shoulder turns, firing hips and putting strokes full of nerve, not nervousness.

"A couple of young guys with some serious action, huh?" said Johnson's caddie, Bobby Brown.

McIlroy is 21, and if he wins on Sunday, he would be three days younger than Tiger Woods was when he won the 1997 Masters. Johnson just turned 26, and he would be the youngest major winner since Ben Curtis, who was also 26 when he won the 2003 British Open.

"Yeah, you sorta get the feeling Rory and Dustin will be knocking heads for the next 15 years or so, don't you?" Brown said.

What we also have in these two are redemption tales. If you feel like you've heard their major championship stories before, it's because you have.

Johnson, famously, was the 54-hole leader at Pebble Beach, a hefty three-stroke lead at that. And then that second shot Sunday at the par-5 second hole at Pebble just missed the fringe and buried, deep, in some weeds. Johnson couldn't even find it for a few moments, the lie was so epically bad. There was a left-handed swipe, a duff, a blurry, fast-forwarded nightmare that ended in a triple-bogey seven, his lead gone. His heart still in his mouth, Johnson pulled his drive on No. 3, lost his ball and made double. He shot 82.

Johnson blew out of Pebble Beach without a word, and conventional wisdom said he'd go into golf's version of the witness protection program, never to be seen near a leaderboard again. That's what happens sometimes in this game.

Except this: He somehow used Pebble as fuel, not shame. Those close to him said he began working out more, hitting more balls, honing his short game. Instead of hiding, Dustin Johnson stood up. He posted an impressive tie-14th at St. Andrews, and now he finds himself in Sunday's final pairing here at "Glory's Last Shot."

And all the while, he keeps playing that gorgeous brand of Dustin Johnson golf. He went driver/6-iron into the 569-yard par-5 16th, making birdie. He went 3-iron/sand wedge into the 355-yard 6th hole, making birdie. And when he found trouble, as he did in the nettlesome lie well behind the 9th green, on a sidehill lie, in Pete Dye's fescue, he used the softest of hands and most still of heads to feather a wedge to 6 feet for a par save to remember. His distance remains awesome – a 314 average ranks fourth here, and McIlroy told the story of a 407-yard drive Johnson hit in front of Rory at the Walker Cup – and he's played the par-5s in 9-under.

Johnson admitted to feeling proud of how he's handled the Pebble Beach fallout. And his caddie says being three shots back, instead of three shots in front, might be better for the nerves. "Less to think about, you know?" Brown said.

Part two of our Summer of Redemption features the kid from Ulster with the nickname "Rors" on the back of his cap. McIlroy, remember, was the first-round leader at St. Andrews after a dazzling, record-tying 63. A Northern Irish lad, laden with press clippings, sniffing a chance at a Claret Jug at age 21 – it had the makings of a monster story, especially given McIlroy's accessible personality, seemingly ego-free. That he was gifted with a golf swing to die for, and a tempo you could watch all day, made his story that much more alluring.

His tie-3rd finish at the Old Course, excellent on paper, is less remembered than his disastrous second-round 80, a storm-battered, soaking mess that reminded you of the game's cruel fates. His tee time was an angry accident from the golf gods, right in the teeth of Scotland's storms.

Some people go a lifetime without a second chance. McIlroy's comes just four short weeks after St. Andrews, a happy accident of golf's calendar. If you got the sense that Mother Nature had delayed a Rory Coronation at the Old Course, and wondered when he'd get his next chance, wonder no more.

"It's nice that it's come the major right after St. Andrews," he said Saturday night. "Yeah. It's nice to have another chance … it's a great place to be."

The humid, sticky Wisconsin air does not feel like Northern Ireland, and he said he's doing battle with the Badger State's finest and largest mosquitoes, lathering on bug spray. But other than that he feels good, relaxed and in a comfort zone. He found himself talking on the course with Johnson about upcoming vacations, the relaxed talk of two competitors secure in their own skin. To watch him use his putter with such striking sureness – 6-foot birdie on No. 2, 12-foot birdie on No. 3, 6-foot birdie on No. 5, 7-foot birdie on No. 10 – was to watch a young man entirely in the moment.

It almost reminded you of how Tiger Woods wielded his putter inside 10 feet – back in his prime.

Lest we forget, one year ago on the Saturday night at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, Tiger had a two-shot lead after 54 holes, and his 15th major championship seemed a fait accompli. But then Y.E. Yang chipped in for eagle, hit that hybrid from the 18th fairway and then hoisted his golf bag and screamed in triumph on the 18th green.

And then came Thanksgiving Night in Orlando.

And now, one year later, Tiger tees off at 10:44 a.m. local time, some two hours and 51 minutes and 19 groups ahead of Dustin and Nick, with Rory right in front of those two.

The names, they are a-changin.'

  • Nick Diaz Reportedly Jumped by 4 Men, Involved in Las Vegas Nightclub Incident

    UFC star Nick Diaz was reportedly attacked by four assailants outside a Las Vegas nightclub in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "I didn't start it," Diaz told TMZ. "They didn't know who I was." Per ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Diaz's role in the altercation has been cleared up by the club: Diaz said he would not be pursuing prosecution for his attackers and told TMZ that the assailants "got the worst of it." According to TMZ, Diaz did attempt to defend himself, although he was struck in the head. The altercation is said to have turned into a melee that spilled into the Bellagio casino and culminated in the attackers "swinging chairs and brawling with club and casino staffers" before being escorted

    Bleacher Report
  • Hope Solo’s ban from USWNT about much more than “coward” comments

    On Wednesday the news broke that U.S. Soccer had banned Hope Solo for six months from the USWNT and had terminated her contract as a member of the national team. In truth, we all saw this coming. The official reason given by Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, was that Solo’s comments following the USA’s shock defeat on penalty kicks to Sweden in the quarterfinals at Rio 2016 were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.” Solo, 35, said that Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards” and argued that “the best team did not win.” Were the comments out of line? Yes. Were they in the heat of the moment? Yes. Were they worthy of a six-month

    ProSoccerTalk
  • National TV talk show blasts Eagles for trading up to draft Carson Wentz

    Carson Wentz came to Eagles with a lot of fanfare and expectations. Fans have taken to Wentz already as shown by how many No.11 jerseys are on the backs of people walking around Philadelphia. The Eagles got the No.2 pick (Carson Wentz) and a 2017 4th-round pick in exchange for No.8 pick (Jack Conklin), a 3rd-round pick (Daryl Worley) a 4th-round pick (Connor Cook) along with a 2017 first round pick and a 2018 2nd-round pick. Max Kellerman is a newcomer to the ESPN show, “First Take.” He voiced his displeasure towards the Eagles trade when he was on the show with Stephen A. Smith and Damien Woody. “Obviously, at the time they made the trade, they made a mistake,” Kellerman said. “They gave up

    Eagles Wire
  • Mexican League pitcher flips off batter before striking him out

    Over the past few seasons, a debate has raged within baseball over how much players should be allowed to celebrate big moments. One side believes an excessive bat flip or fist pump warrants a 98 mph fastball to the ribs. The other side thinks big moment

    Big League Stew
  • Lane Johnson says he'll sue supplement company over suspension

    Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson first complained about the NFLPA’s lack of supplement testing after his positive test triggered a 10-game suspension. Now he says he’ll sue the supplement company that he says sold him the amino acids that led to the positive test. Johnson had $25 million in guaranteed money remaining on his deal, but the positive test meant none of that money is guaranteed anymore due to a clause in his contract.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Mosley: The four teams I'd add to Big 12 and why SMU isn't one of them

    Matt Mosley, co-host of The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley on weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on KESN-FM 103.3, answered questions in a live chat. Here are some highlights. Many "experts" say that Tech will go 7-5 or 6-6 this season. If that happens is Kliff a goner? Matt Mosley: I don't really have him on the hot seat. I don't think 7-5 gets him fired. It sort of depends on how these games play out. The Red Raiders had the Frogs on the ropes last season...and couldn't put them away. If Mahomes has a great season and the Raiders win 8-9 games, all will be well in Lubbock. I have Mahomes as a darkhorse Heisman candidate. He has a chance to put up huge numbers. He's one of the most exciting

    SportsDay
  • Billy Bush on Ryan Lochte's Robbery Lie: 'Did He Besmirch America's Character? Yes'

    Billy Bush is opening up about his now-infamous interview with swimmer Ryan Lochte about his fabricated robbery in Rio. Yes, it was an unfortunate thing for us, because it was such a sideshow for the second week of the Olympics," Bush said during a SiriusXM Today Show sit-down. Bush was the first to track down Lochte for an interview after the swimmer's mother, Ileana Lochte, told USA Today that her son and some of his teammates had been held up during a night out in Rio.

    People
  • Katie Ledecky explains why she is passing up an estimated $5 million per year in endorsements

    What is Katie Ledecky’s net worth? The swimmer could have a whole lot more — about $5 million per year in endorsements. Katie Ledecky proved to be one of the biggest stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics with her dominance in the pool.

    Business Insider
  • Red Sox 3, Rays 4: Sox lose Benintendi in seventh, game in eleventh

    An extra-innings loss would be bad enough by itself, but the Red Sox didn’t just lose the game, but also their young left fielder. The only question now is for how long. The Red Sox could never quite get to a comfortable position in this game, despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first when David Ortiz found the distance for the 30th time on the year. Porcello found himself in more than a few jams early, with only the threat of Jackie Bradley’s arm keeping the Rays from getting on the board in the second. They would build their lead to 3-0 when Mookie Betts drove in Dustin Pedroia to end the top of the third, but in the bottom of the frame, the Rays got two back when Porcello struggled to put away

    Over the Monster
  • Peter King: How not drafting Johnny Manziel turned into 'embarrassment of riches' for Cowboys

    Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com's Peter King recently joined KTCK 1310 The Ticket's The Musers. Here are some highlights:  On the problem Dak solves: King: I think the best part about Dak Prescott from the Cowboys' view is simple: It means now the urgency to get a veteran backup who they probably wouldn't trust anyway ... just isn't there. So if someone comes on the waiver wire who they can get for nothing, minimum salary, fine. But now, if I'm Dallas I'm not thinking my backup quarterback problem is a problem because they've seen enough out of Prescott to know if the emergency happens, he's got as good a chance. I'm not saying he'll be a playoff quarterback - but he has as good a chance as any

    SportsDay
  • With no deal, Chargers withdraw offer to first-rounder Bosa

    Joey Bosa's holdout turned ugly Wednesday when the San Diego Chargers pulled their contract offer to the first-round draft pick and said they'll restructure a new deal that would reflect him playing less than a full season. Bosa has missed all of training camp as his agents and the team wrangle over how much of his $17 million signing bonus he'll get up front, as well as offset language in the case he gets cut. The Chargers were counting on the former Ohio State star to help bolster their pass rush and bring some excitement to a season that could be pivotal to their future in San Diego.

    The Associated Press
  • The Top 10 Instagram Posts From Rio 2016

    From Usain Bolt’s signature pose to Simone Biles’ smooch from Zac Efron, here are the most-liked photos on Instagram from Olympic athletes.From Town & Country

    Town & Country
  • British Olympic Team Has Luggage Mishap

    The country's Olympic athletes returned home from Rio but were stuck at baggage claim because each had the same red, Team GB bag. If they all came to returning than on the same flags of I can't see this team great Britain's Twitter account baggage collection could be interesting hash tag same same hash tag great to be back.

    ABC News Videos
  • Yoenis Cespedes says he won't opt out of Mets contract

    The New York Mets somehow finding a way to bring back outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this past winter was one of the biggest stories of the offseason. After singlehandedly taking the Mets to the playoffs with a spectacular second half, it was assumed Cespedes’ price range on the market would exceed what the Mets were willing to pay. In order to bring back Cespedes, the Mets needed to get creative with their deal.

    Big League Stew
  • All 14 SEC football stadiums, ranked from worst to best

    Welcome to For The Win’s ranking of all 14 football stadiums in the Southeastern Conference. The SEC drew the highest attendance of any conference in 2015, averaging a record 78,630 fans per home game. It marked the 18th consecutive season the SEC led the nation in average football attendance. The Big Ten (66,008), Big 12 (57,347) Pac-12 (51,880) and Atlantic Coast (49,033) fell behind. The rankings below are based on capacity, average attendance, regality (these places essentially are castles after all), and how wild the place gets on a Saturday. Vanderbilt Stadium holds a more intimate crowd compared to others in the conference, but Commodore fans prefer the tailgate scene outside the gates

    For The Win
  • League of Legends esports is in chaos over low pay, untimely patches, and more (UPDATED)

    The League of Legends esports scene is a mess right now. In the past few months, tensions between Riot Games and team owners within the LCS have been rising. There is a rift (sorry) between the owners and Riot due to disagreements about how the LCS and the rest of League esports should be run.

    Taylor Cocke
  • Ryan Lochte Teammate James Feigen Apologizes, Details Rio Gas Station Gaffe & Brazilian Authorities’ Big Fine Demands

    James Feigen has become the third U.S. swimmer involved in the now infamous Rio gas station incident to give a detailed account of the events that cast a shadow on the American athletes’ performance at the Olympic games. Following Gunnar Bentz’s written statement and Ryan Lochte’s apology and TV interview, Feigen on Tuesday issued a statement through his attorneys, Austin, TX-based Mark Hull and Daniel Wannamaker. In the missive, he chronicles a sequence of events in line with Bentz’s and Lochte’s post-Olympics accounts — an early morning taxi after an all-night party, a stop at a gas station, locked bathroom, urination in the grass, Lochte knocking down a poster, guards forcing them out of the taxi at gunpoint with demands for money.

    Deadline
  • John Wall and Bradley Beal are trying to learn to like each other

    John Wall and Bradley Beal feel the love. The Washington Wizards have been an excellent example of that difficulty. General manager Ernie Grunfeld opened this decade by selecting two very promising guards in John Wall (the first-overall pick in 2010) and Bradley Beal (third in 2012), and both have impressed enough to earn max-level contracts as the future leaders of the franchise.

    Ball Don't Lie
  • Ronda Rousey will not return at UFC 205 in New York

    If Ronda Rousey is going to return to the UFC in the future, it certainly won’t be at the fighting promotions highly anticipated debut in New York City. UFC president Dana White appeared on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast to state that the former women’s bantamweight champion would not be fighting at UFC 205 on Nov. 12. “She’s definitely not fighting in New York,” White said.

    Cagewriter
  • Review: 'Madden NFL 17' runs hard, plays it safe

    Despite its incredible complexity and depth, Madden 17 is surprisingly kind to new players, as well as those who haven’t memorized every NFL team’s gameplay strategy. The upgraded run mechanics and countless small improvements certainly keep it a step ahead of Madden 16.

    Ben Silverman
  • Rory McIlroy Not Switching Equipment Yet Despite New Putter in Bag

    Rory McIlroy may have a Scotty Cameron putter in the bag this week at The Barclays, but he's not making any major equipment moves yet. Following Nike's announcement that the athletic giant is getting out of the equipment game, McIlroy confirmed Wednesday that he's switched out his Nike Method Origin putter for a Scotty Cameron M1 prototype.

    Golf
  • The Next Steelers Household Names: Rookie Javon Hargrave

    If there’s one word to describe Javon Hargrave on the field, it’s “annoying.” As in, he’s got to be an annoying guy to play against. If you watched his college film, he looked a bit like the old Looney Tunes character “Taz”: furious, always moving, and a look as if he wanted nothing more than to knock you on your rear-end. And, as a collegiate athlete, that’s precisely what he did on a regular basis. Clearly, he’s playing a vastly improved level of competition as a professional football player. But the energy, the fury, the passion? It’s all still there. He’s undersized for the position. So far this preseason, he’s played nose tackle in the Steelers’ base, 3-4 defense, and he’s played left defensive

    Behind the Steel Curtain
  • Rob Segedin gets first homer and first child in the same week

    It’s been an unforgettable week for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Rob Segedin. It all started on Monday when the Dodgers were facing the Cincinnati Reds. Segedin had made his MLB debut on August 7, but had yet to hit his first major league home run.

    Big League Stew
  • Big Ten preview: Michigan and Ohio State are getting all the press, but other contenders lurk

    Is it time to buy the hype for Michigan? Is Ohio State really in a rebuilding year? Are we doing a disservice to Michigan State and Iowa by completely ignoring last year’s division champs? These are some of the main questions heading into this Big Ten

    Dr. Saturday
  • NASCAR announces warnings to Xfinity teams

    In the span of less than a week, the long-term sponsor outlook of JR Motorsports dramatically has shifted from potentially bleak to firmly bright. On the heels of NASCAR phenom William Byron being added to the Xfinity Series team for the 2017 season (as part of a multiyear deal with Hendrick Motorsports), JRM announced Wednesday that sponsor OneMain has reversed course and decided to remain on Elliott Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet. “When we found out this was going to happen, my wife and I just cried that whole morning tears of joy knowing there’s so much stability,” Sadler, 41, told NBC Sports. OneMain, which initially had informed JRM nearly two months ago of its plan to leave NASCAR, will sponsor Sadler for 20 races in each of the next two seasons, JRM general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said.

    NASCAR Talk