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Posts Tagged ‘Rory McIlroy’

Rory

The Mac train has reached its first station.

Rory McIlroy, he of the curly hair and boyish demeanor, just won his first, of what is projected to be many, golf major championships, the 2011 US Open. After the debacle of Augusta, where an 80 on the final round cost him the green jacket, after leading by 4 strokes entering the final round, many debated whether the young lad from Northern Ireland has fallen into an abysss from which he cannot be expected to recover. But lo and behold, not only did he win the tournament, he decimated the field steaming home like a runaway locomotive.

Leading all four rounds, Rory built on his lead over the first three rounds, creating records along the way. After a flawless 65, 6-under, first round, he backed up his play with a 66 in the second for a phenomenal 11-under score in the US Open, where par is sacred. Of even greater significance is the fact that he double bogeyed the 18th for his first over par score over the first two rounds. By reaching 13 under he breached the winning score of Tiger Woods in Pebble Beach, where he lapped the field. In fact 13 under has never been reached in the history of the US Open, ever!

Between the second and third, speculation was rife that the lad would fold under the pressure and collapse. History unfortunately was against him. After a phenomenal 63 in last year’s British Open, he skied to an 80 in the second round. In spite of two great rounds after, the talk was he was lacked the killer instinct to close the deal. Thihs view was confirmed in the Master’s earlier this year, where he slept a 4 stroke lead enetering the final round, only to shoot another 80 to drop from 1st to 15th when all was said and done. So, a 6 stroke lead over Korean Y.E. Yang, a former PGA Champion, the man known to stare down Tiger, and out gun him in the final round of a major, can be easily overcome.

But Rory, with knowledge gathered from his previous performances, has matured. After a little shaky start in the thihrd, he settled down and shot a remarkable 68 ending the day at 14 under, a never before heard of score and more importantly, an 8 shot lead entering the fourth.

In spite of this, people still doubted. Prognosticators said that with the softened condition of Congressional, someone could still post a ridiculous number and another 80 may still pull the youngster back to earth. But Rory remained unbowed.With a birdie on 16th, Rory reached the stratosphere at 17 under par. A three putt bogey on 17, his first for the championship, and a great par on 18 gave him a 16 under total 268, numbers so low, they were unthinkable. In the end he won by 8 over Fil-Australian Jason Day leaving no doubt that we are witnessing the start of an era.

Other notes: At 22 years and 46 days, Rory, becomes the second youngest major champion in the modern era, next only to Tiger, who was 21 when he won the 97 Masters. Rory is the youngest US Open champion, beating the old record of Jack Nicklaus… Nirthern Ireland has produced the last two US Open champions, after Greame McDowell won last year… The first thing Rory told his dad, after getting off the greaan was “happy father’s day”… Jason Day just came in second in his second straight major and third straight top tens in majors. He has just shown that he is part of the mix as the next generation of stars… Rory shot all four rounds in the 60s onky the second time its been done … Robert Garrigus, a qualifier, shot all four rounds under par, being the fifth man to do it, ending up at 6 under in a tie for third, with Yang, and Lee Westwood amongst others.

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With 4 holes to go, the Master’s was a wide open race.  Adam Scott was up by a mere stroke (-11) over Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day.  At 15, Schwartzel hit his 2nd shot over the green and was facing a delicate downhill chip.  Masterfully, he wills his ball just slightly past the hole and made the comebacker for a birdie and a tie for the lead.

Scott however would not give up with a birdie on 16 to regain the lead at 12 under on the shot par 3 16.  Not wanting to be left behind, Schwartzel himself made a magnificent birdie rolling in a putt that was headed nowhere but the bottom of the cup tying up the veteran Aussie.

At 17, Scott was struggling with a wayward tee shot into a fairway bunker way left and behind the trees.  After much consideration he played into the greenside bunker.  From there he blasted to within some 7 to 8 feet from where he putted n for par.  Talk about gutting it out.  In the meantime, playing partner Jason Day, he with the Filipino mother and Australian dad, got tired of just watching the fireworks around him and decided to get into the action.  Facing a daunting putt from quite some distance back, he stroked his putt straight and true and with his birdie he got back into contention just one back with one hole to go.

Schwartzel, playing in the group behind, hit his tee shot into the rough right of the fairway and was facing a difficult shot into a green with a pin position at the right side.  He knew he had to stick it close just to make sure he would not be left behind by the charging Aussies.  He had played brilliantly up to this point and did not want to waste his chance.  Playing 4 back at the start of play at 8 under, he immediately made his presence felt with a birdie on 1 and a hole out from the fairway for an eagle on 3.  He got a bit derailed with a bogey on 4 and then turned quite, until his birdie on 15.  After his lead tying birdie on 16, he did not want to again make a bogey, that would surely pull him out of the race.  So with a sureness in his swing, he hit his ball into the green and found himself around 10 feet away for the birdie.  With one putt to take the lead in the Master’s with one hole to go, Schwartzel, steadied himself and rolled the putt in and stood at 13 under.

In the meantime, Scott played his approach to 18 to within 25 feet while Day, after a brilliant tee shot, was  mere 5 to 7 feet away. Scott’s putt was never really high enough to threaten the hole and ended up with a par for a total of 12 under.  Day, with a chance to tie his playing partner and perhaps not yet knowing what Schwartzel had done the hole before, willed his putt into the hole and pumped his fist, also ending up at 12 under.  He and Scott left the green hoping for at least a chance at a playoff for the green jacket.

Schwartzel though was lying in ideal position in the middle of the fairway of the historic 18. With the pin in its traditional Sunday position, bottom left just behind the bunkers, he knew that the best play was to play the ball just right of the pin and slightly past, allowing the ball to roll back and funnel in close to the hole.  Play that shot he did and was left some 15 feet for the birdie.  Knowing that the green jacket is within his grasp, Schwartzel strolled up the green to the warm applause of the patrons.  Standing over his ball, he knew that two putts would win the Master’s.  But why tale two when you can do it in one?  To the roar of an appreciative crowd, Schwartzel crushed the hopes of the Aussie duo by rolling in his final birdie of the day, finishing at 14 under, two strokes clear of the tied second placers.  Australia still does not have a Master’s champion.  South Africa now has three (Gary Player and Trevor Immelman).

But while many in South Africa would remember Schwartzel’s winning moment the world will remember this Master’s for the collapse of a young phenom.  What was supposed to be a coronation turned into a wake for the last grouping in the Master’s.

Entering the final round with a 4 stroke lead at 12 under, Rory McIlroy, was in full command of his game and writers all over the world were already proclaiming him as the new face in golf.  He had a little hiccup with a bogey at 1 and 5 but birdied 7 to stay at 11 under at the turn, still leading the field.  Then came the dreaded 10th hole. Many say the Master’s really start in the back 9 of Sunday.  This is when kins are made and jesters are exposed.  Traditionally viewed as the toughest hole in Augusta, the 10th this year was the site of a comedy of errors not often seen in this level of competition.  Standing on a 1 stroke lead, McIlroy, leader in driving distance for the week, made a mighty whack at the ball and pulled his tee shot way left and into the cabins.  Pundits say they do not recall anyone ever playing from that area and even McIlroy was wondering whether he was out of bounds.  He then played his second over the fairway, then again over the fairway to behind some scoreboards.  All told, McIlroy left the 10th green with a whopping 7, triple bogey and found himself 2 shot back of the leaders.  Reeling perhaps from the disastrous start of his back 9, he then played bogey-double bogey on his next two holes to end his Master’s campaign.  This was Rory’s Master’s to lose and lose it he did.  After another bogey at the par 5 15th, he ended up at 4 under tied for 15th, comforted only by the fact that he has an automatic invite to next’s year edition with the chance to regain some pride.  Question is, will this tragedy break him or will it make him.  History will soon tell.

This Master’s though should be remembered for a lot of positives.  For one the low amateur, and the only amateur to make the cut is Hideki Matsuyama, 19, from Japan, who got in by winning the Asian Amateur Championship. This validated the decision of the Master’s committee to allow an automatic invite to the Amateur Champion of Asia and served as notice to the world that Asian golf is here to stay.  In receiving his recognition at Butler’s Cabin, Matsuyama expressed pride in his achievement but more importantly wished that his game brought some level of comfort for the people of Japan, still reeling from the devastating earthquake and tsunami.  His play and that of Ryo Ishikawa (the Smiling Prince), who ended up tied for 20th at leas put some smiles into the faces of the Japanese people.

This Master’s is also where the young guns started to show their teeth.  While McIlroy collapsed, he heralded the coming of the likes of Charl Schwartzel (26), Jason Day(23), Rickie Fowler(22) and Alvaro Quiros(28) as serious contenders for major prizes.  For us Filipino Day’s performance should serve as inspiration that we Filipinos can play even in the highest more rarified evels of competition.

But most especially, this Master’s should be remembered as the site for the emergence of a new champion.  Charl Schwartzel while not yet a household name has always been a contender.  While he has not won in the PGA Tour since he joined in 2007, he has 6 European Tour wins including 1 this year at the Joburg Open in Johannesburg, South Africa and is 5th in the Eurpoean money list before the Master’s.  With this win, his first on the US Tour, perhaps 26 year old Charl will now emerge as a consistent contender and play to his true level.

And so we say goodbye to Augusta Georgia for yet another year.  The Master’s has again proven to be the site of a magnificent tournament, filled with drama and crowing a worthy champion.  Congratulations Charl Schwartzel.  You truly deserved it.

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This is the week of the Masters, “a tradition like no other”, as CBS’s Jim Nantz would say.  For the first time in 12 years Tiger Woods is not the odds on favorite to bring home the green jacket.  Phil Mickelson holds that distinction having won 4 of the last 7 stagings of this event, including last year, and winner last week of the Shell Houston Open.  So who do I think will win this year’s edition?  In no particular order my top 5 are:

 

1.  Phil Mickelson – Can’t really argue here.  The guy just came off an impressive win, putting together 2 fine rounds to win in Houston.  The defending Master’s champion showed last year how much he owns the course.  He played with reckless abandon and was rewarded in the end.  His 6 iron from behind the trees in 15 is still the stuff of legends and will forever be part of Master’s lore.  My problem with Phil is that while he won last week, his season before last week was quite pedestrian.  Will we get the champion golfer or the guy who has been complaining about his arthritis.

 

2.  Martin Kaymer – Ok so he has never made the cut in the Master’s.  Ok so he has not won since he became number 1.  Ok  so he has not really contended since the Accenture Match Play.  But the guy is the number 1 player in the world for a reason.  He is steady, composed, long, and accurate.  He has the game for the Master’s and definitely the temperament.  His win in the PGA Championship showed that he can handle the pressure of a Sunday major.  Can he do so, while the cheers are murmuring amongst the trees and azaleas in Augusta?  I think so.

 

3.  Bubbba Watson – It is no secret that long hitters do well in Augusta and Bubba definitely fits the bill.  His game has improved by leaps and bounds and has even given him a win this year while contending in others.  His heartbreak in the PGA only steeled and prepared him for pressure in a Sunday back 9.  More importantly, his short game is pretty good and with the undulating greens in the Masters, that can only serve him well.

 

4.  Lee Westwood – This guy is due.  Has contended in Augusta ending up second last year.  He has contended in the other majors as well just  failing to get over the hump.  This former world number  1 has the game to breakthrough but has to contend with a rather bulky putter lately.  Nonetheless, he has the poise and ability to win.  The golfing gods will do well to reward this gifted golfer.  It’s about time.

 

5.  Matt Kuchar – After his impressive debut in Augusta in 1998, he has kinda fallen off the map.  But last year saw the reemergence of Matt Kuchar, winning once, topping the money, winning the Nelson and Vardon trophies as well.  this year he already has 6 top 10s in 8 events and is 3rd in scoring.  Statistically, he is in a good position to win his first major.  It would indeed be a great story for this Georgia native to win in his hometown.

 

Honorable mentions include Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Nick Watney, and sentimental favorite Ernie Els.  For the asians we can only look towards KJ Choi and Ryo Ishikawa.  I hope the latter does well if only for his pledge to Japanese relief efforts.

 

So those are the players to watch out for.  Who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Let’s enjoy this tradition which unfolds tonight.

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