Golf Buzz

June 18, 2014 - 9:04am
Posted by:
Bernie McGuire
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy says he will represent Ireland in the 2016 Olympics.

CORK, Ireland -- After months of indecision over who to represent, Rory McIlroy announced Wednesday that he will play for Ireland -- not Britain -- at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The 25-year-old McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland, was eligible to play for either Ireland or Team GB when golf makes its return to the Olympics in Brazil for the first time since 1904.

Having played all of his amateur golf under the auspices of the Dublin-based Golfing Union of Ireland, the two-time major winner opted to stay with Ireland for the Olympics.

"I have been thinking about the decision a lot and remembered all the times I represented Ireland as an amateur," McIlroy said on the eve of the Irish Open in Cork. "I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and play as an amateur and as a boy, and I would be very proud to do it again."

McIlroy has twice played in golf's World Cup for Ireland, both times alongside fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell.

"Just because I'm getting paid to play this great game now doesn't mean I should change (team)," McIlroy said. "So I'm very happy with my decision. It means I can look forward to the Olympics in a couple of years' time -- you know, if I qualify, obviously, for the team.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do. It was the right time to let everyone know. Now I'm really looking forward to Rio in `16."

McIlroy announced his decision ahead of next month's International Golf Federation meeting that will finalize the eligibility criteria for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

"There's no point in delaying it and letting it linger any longer," he said. "Watching the World Cup in Brazil, thinking about Brazil in a couple of years' time, it just sort of got me thinking, maybe I should just go ahead and get it out of the way."

Still, McIlroy said, winning an Olympic medal would not match winning a major championship.

"The majors in our sport are the biggest and best prizes in the game," he said. "But as hopefully golf grows in the Olympics and becomes, say, bigger in four or five games down the line, then it might become bigger."

Citizens of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, can hold both British and Irish citizenship. Most of the Protestant majority is British, most of its Catholic minority Irish.

McIlroy, while raised a Catholic, grew up in the predominantly Protestant town of Holywood east of Belfast and once said he considered himself more British than Irish.

His 2012 comments -- suggesting he might prefer to join the British team -- provoked strong ill feelings from Irish golf fans. McIlroy initially said he might skip Rio entirely to avoid alienating fans further.

Two other top Northern Ireland golfers, Darren Clarke and McDowell, are Protestants who have identified with Ireland.

It was a good morning all around for McIlroy, who was finally reunited with his clubs -- which were missing from his United flight earlier in the week, but located by the airline and delivered Wednesday.

 

 

June 17, 2014 - 4:20pm
Posted by:
Doug Ferguson
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Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods was playing with obvious pain before having back surgery in March

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Tiger Woods is making progress in his recovery from back surgery and starting to extend his swing, his agent said Tuesday.

Woods already has missed two majors this year while he recovers from a microdiscectomy on his back on March 31. He last played on March 9 at Doral, when he closed with a 78 despite the pain in his lower back. Woods has said he has no idea when he will be healthy enough to return to competition.

SIDELINED FOR SPRING: Tiger Woods elects to have back surgery, misses Masters

A report on Golf Channel's morning show said he was taking full swings at the Medalist Golf Club in South Florida.

"Tiger is progressing like he expected," Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management said in an email. "Feeling good each day. As each day passes and he feels that way, he lengthens the swing a bit."

Woods is the tournament host next week for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional. It is not expected that he will play. The deadline to enter is Friday. This is the first year of title sponsorship for the Detroit-based company.

The next major is the British Open on July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool, where Woods won in 2006.

The last time Woods missed two majors in one year because of injuries was in 2011, when he sat out the U.S. Open and British Open to let his leg fully recover. That year, he returned at Bridgestone Invitational in early August, a World Golf Championship that has no cut.

INJURY INVENTORY: A complete list of Tiger Woods' injuries

In a promotional day for Quicken Loans last month, Woods said he was chipping and putting in a way that did not require rotation in his back. That was four weeks ago.

He also did not know how much time it would take for him to be ready for a tournament once he could take full swings with no pain.

"The more time you give me, I think the better I'll be," he said. "The great thing about what I've done so far and all my other previous surgeries is that I worked on my short game. Once I start expanding from there and start competing and playing, if I start spraying it all over the lot and not hitting it that great, at least my short game is solid. That's one of the positives to it."

Woods has slipped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the world ranking, and he is likely to fall a couple of more spots in coming weeks. He is at No. 207 in the FedEx Cup standings -- having finished 72 holes only once this year -- and the top 125 get into the playoffs that start Aug. 21.

The news comes one day after Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Open with the second-lowest score in history at 271. The overnight rating for NBC Sports was 3.3, down 46 percent from the previous year at Merion.

 

 

 

June 17, 2014 - 10:22am
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy flew to Ireland this week for the Irish Open, but his golf clubs failed to show up.

Rory McIlroy has a problem many frequent fliers face every day: Lost luggage.

But in this case, McIlroy was missing his golf clubs. That's a pretty big problem for a professional golfer.

McIlroy apparently flew from Newark, N.J., to Dublin on a United flight. But his clubs weren't in the cargo hold when the plane landed.

Here's Rory's tweet:

 

 

 

The good news? It appears United has located McIlroy's clubs and they should be en route.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, that still means McIlroy lost a lot of time to practice with his own equipment.

 

Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer
Sergio Garcia via Twitter
Martin Kaymer was content to turn the German sports spotlight over to the soccer players on Monday.
How do you celebrate a history-making victory in the U.S. Open? If you're Martin Kaymer, you head to the Big Apple to catch a little soccer, sorry, football.
 
Kaymer's countrymen clearly were inspired by his domination at Pinehurst as they routed Portugal 4-0 earlier today as Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and their very huge buddy checked out the action at the Biergarten. Judging by Kaymer's smile – which looks bigger than any we saw from him until he had the U.S. Open trophy in his hands Sunday night – he approved of their performance.
 
 
 
June 16, 2014 - 8:22am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Phil Mickelson
USA Today Images
Today, June 16, 2014, Phil Mickelson turns 44 years old.

Today, June 16, is Phil Mickelson's 44th birthday.

For over two decades now, the five-time major champion has been a fan favorite -- just as much for his on-course play, as the father and family man he is off it (last year, he left during practice rounds at the U.S. Open in Philadelphia to fly home to California to be at his daughter's eighth-grade graduation, returning to Merion just before his first-round tee time).

RELATED: Phil Mickelson terrific flop shot at U.S. Open

Mickelson is one of those rare stars in sport who embraces all that comes with his stardom. He's been known to spend an hour or more after rounds -- good and bad -- signing autographs for fans. Sure, many players sign, but after a bad day it would be easy to give them a pass if they wanted to get out of there. That's not Mickelson though.

And, if you wanted to get an idea of just how good Mickelson can be to his fans, then you must check out this Yahoo! story by Jay Busbee from over the weekend about what Mickelson did for a father and wheelchair-bound son at Pinehurst No. 2.

Here's an excerpt:

Over all 18 of Pinehurst's sand-strewn, wire-and-scrub-grass-laden holes, John Finn pushed his son David. They accompanied Mickelson inside the ropes as guests of Phil himself. It was the kind of constant, personal connection between athlete and fan that's not possible in any other sport, and neither John nor David could stop grinning.

"This has just been amazing," John said, cooling down in the shade next to Pinehurst's famed Payne Stewart statue. "We've met Phil before, but this is the first time we've walked all 18 with him."

"David, he's a great kid," Mickelson said after Sunday's round. "He's been with us for a long time. He's been out at a number of tournaments for almost a decade now. His dad, John, is a great man."

"Great" isn't a label John would apply to himself. The high school teacher from Ramsey, N.J. just loves his son enough to take him to three to four golf tournaments a year in a wheelchair with "David Finn, The Golf Fanatic" inscribed on the back.

David, age 21, has a form of muscular dystrophy that virtually immobilizes him in his wheelchair. His body lies twisted in painfully unnatural ways, and one of the tragedies of his condition is that his mind is as sharp as anyone's at Pinehurst. What brings him great joy, though, is watching golf, both live and on television.

Happy birthday, Phil. 

June 15, 2014 - 7:18pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Justin Rose
Justin Rose nailed a birdie putt on his final hole at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday and proceeded to impersonate the late Payne Stewart.

Justin Rose, winner of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, did something fans won't soon forget as he putted out on the last green at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday.

After holing a lengthy birdie putt, Rose proceeded to reenact Payne Stewart's famous fist pump after the late Stewart holed a winning putt on that very green in 1999:

Rose's birdie gave him a final-round 2-over 72. He'll finish just outside the top 10. But, between his gesture on 18 and Rickie Fowler's choice of attire on Thursday, it's safe to say that even 15 years later, Stewart will always be remembered.