Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy via Twitter
Rory McIlroy believes that a good showing this week in Australia could buoy him next spring at Augusta National.
Last week, we saw Rory McIlroy lift a ridiculous amount of weight as he officially captured the European Tour's money title in Dubai. On Tuesday, his exercise regimen was a little less strenuous – he carried a baby kangaroo around downtown Sydney in advance of his defense of the Emirates Australian Open title this week at the Australian Club.
 
The photo op with the kid was pretty light-hearted, but McIlroy is serious about the tournament because he's got a chance to make some serious history. Only two non-Australian players have won the Australian Open back-to-back. Maybe you've heard of them – Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
 
McIlroy has another reason for wanting a good sowing this week – he believes that his victory last year essentially launched him into his wildly successful 2014, and he's hoping a repeat could do him similar good in 2015.
 
 
"I have been thinking about Augusta next year since the 18th August this year when I won the PGA Championship for a second time," he said. "So it might be a good omen for me going to Augusta in April if I could again win the Australian Open.
 
"I've said many times since winning at Royal Sydney a year ago that my Australian Open victory was pivotal to what I have achieved this year," he added. "And if I can win the championship again then I have to go to Augusta with a lot of confidence of winning the only major I need to win to capture the Grand Slam."
 
The Australian Open will be McIlroy's final competition for 2014. He's planning to spend a few days in New York to host a couple of events for his Rory McIlroy Foundation, and will make his 2015 debut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in mid-January.
 
 
 
 
Rory McIlroy and baby kangaroo go sightseeing in Australia
November 25, 2014 - 12:37pm
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy is the defending championship at the Australian Open this week.

Here's a look at the tournaments on tap this week:

PGA Tour: Off this week
Next event: Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Jan. 9-12, 2015, at Kapalua Resort in Kapalua, Hawaii 

PGA TOUR OF AUSTRALASIA: Australian Open
Site: Sydney.
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.
Course: The Australian Golf Club (7,245 yards, 6,625 meters, par 70).
Purse: $1,074,600. Winner's share: $193,425.

Last year: Rory McIlroy won at Royal Sydney for his lone 2013 title. He birdied the final hole to beat Adam Scott by a stroke.

Last week: Australian left-hander Nick Cullen won the Australian Masters at Metropolitan in Melbourne. Scott, the 2012 and 2013 winner, was a stroke back along with fellow Australians James Nitties and Josh Younger.

Notes: The top-ranked McIlroy is in the field along with Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Americans Jordan Spieth, and Boo Weekley. McIlroy tied for second last week in Dubai in the European Tour's season-ending event. He won the British Open in July and the U.S. PGA Championship in August. ... Peter Senior won at The Lakes in 2012 to become the oldest winner in event history at 53. ... Gary Player won the national championship a record seven times, one more than Jack Nicklaus. ... The NSW PGA Championship is next week at Riverside Oaks, followed by the Australian PGA at Royal Pines.

OTHER TOURNAMENTS
MEN
JAPAN GOLF TOUR: Casio World Open
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday
Course: Kochi Kuroshio Country Club
Site: Kochi, Japan

ASIAN TOUR: King's Cup
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday
Course: Singha Park Khon Kaen Golf Club
Site: Kohn Kaen, Thailand

SUNSHINE TOUR: Lion of Africa Cape Town Open
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday
Course: Royal Cape Golf Club
Site: Cape Town, South Africa

PGA TOUR LATINOAMERICA: Personal Classic
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday
Course: Las Praderas Club Campos de Golf
Site: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

WOMEN

JAPAN LPGA TOUR: LPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup
Schedule: Thursday-Sunday
Course: Miyazaki Country Club
Site: Miyazaki, Japan

Pro golf schedule this week
Charlie Sifford
Getty Images
Charlie Sifford receives his medal Monday from President Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON –- Dr. Charles L. “Charlie” Sifford, a former caddie who cleared a forest of obstacles a half-century earlier to carve his rightful place in golf, had the best seat in the East Room of the White House Monday afternoon.

Wearing a new black suit and a big smile, Sifford sat just a few feet from President Barack Obama, who served as master of ceremonies. The President praised 18 uncommon Americans as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

VIDEO: Sifford honored | Sifford receives Medal of Freedom | Tiger: Sifford a trailblazer | Photos

When his name was called, the 92-year-old Sifford, a PGA Life Member, waited for the President to approach him. President Obama gathered a blue ribbon bearing a golden star and draped it around Sifford’s neck.

The humble man who began playing golf at age 13, and later endured a gauntlet of abuse, now had membership privileges in one of the most select “clubs” in the country.

When asked how earning this medal compared to playing for a major, Sifford clutched the ribbon and the golden star and said, "No major compares to this. Today was exciting. Great people to be around you. I loved it."

Sifford joined a glittering roster of Medal of Freedom recipients that included Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, Emmy Award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, Ethel Kennedy, actress-activist Marlo Thomas and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder.

“This felt different than anything else,” said Sifford, referring to his 2004 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame and a 2006 honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. “They say what I did helped African-Americans, but it went further.”

MORE SIFFORD: Check out our #ThanksCharlieSifford page | Sifford photo gallery

Former U.S. Congressman Mel Watt, a distant relative of Sifford, called the honor “bigger than sport.”

“The Medal of Freedom takes in the contributions to America and how someone lives out the ideals in the Constitution for the betterment of others,” said Watt, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. “Charlie has opened up avenues for aspiring generations of Americans.”

Sifford was the first person of color to compete in PGA-sanctioned events following the demise in 1961 of the “Caucasian-only” PGA of America membership clause.

The national recognition on behalf of Sifford was spearheaded by the PGA of America and was met with wide-ranging support from all of golf’s national governing bodies, national diversity-focused organizations, government officials and sports figures. Among those lending their support to the effort were the PGA TOUR, United States Golf Association, World Golf Foundation, 64 Members of Congress and notable athletes that included Jim Brown, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell and Tiger Woods.

In addition, to help celebrate this special recognition, the PGA of America has developed a PSA thanking Sifford for teeing up the game for future generations and is encouraging others to do so at www.pga.com/thanksCharlieSifford.

THANK YOU CHARLIE: Watch as the PGA of America honors Dr. Sifford

“I think Charlie Sifford’s name is going to be put into a whole other area of national and global recognition,” said Sheila Johnson, golf entrepreneur and USGA Executive Committee member. “I hope that there will be more stories on Charlie. We’re still fighting the fight in golf. As a USGA officer, I also understand the struggles that he’s been through. I will tell you that the barriers are still there. It’s more important now, with more than 130 courses closing down over the past year. If golf wants to continue to grow, we’ve got to start opening up and become more inclusive of people of all races and nationalities.”

Charles Sifford Jr., a retired postal carrier from Shaker Heights, Ohio, was one of four Sifford family members attending the ceremony. He said his father’s preparations to attend the ceremony included adjusting a schedule of undergoing kidney dialysis three times a week.

“We’ve heard it many times about dad being the Jackie Robinson of golf,” said Charles Jr. “Jackie had a strong owner (Branch Rickey) behind him, along with teammates and he played in a stadium with separation from the fans. Dad was out on his own playing professional golf. There was no security. Who was going to step up for him?”

Gallery ropes were a rarity in the early years of the PGA Tour. PGA/LPGA Professional Renee Powell of East Canton, Ohio, the second African-American woman golfer on the LPGA Tour, recalled the risks that she took in the 1960s during the height of the civil rights era.

“It was common for many tournaments to allow the fans to stroll up the fairway behind the players,” says Powell, the PGA Head Professional at Clearview Golf Club. “If Charlie Sifford had not stayed with it and been persistent, it (open access to African Americans in professional golf) would have taken much longer. Charlie helped to make the climate better for all, including me.”

Richard “Jelly” Hansberry, 76, of Washington, D.C., caddied for Sifford at a pro-am in the 1960s and later became a 28-year caddie for Champions Tour veteran Jim Thorpe.

“This is a great honor for him [Charlie] and I think a long time coming for what he did,” said Hansberry. “It was as tough on us caddies as it was for Charlie in many ways. They stopped Charlie at the gate before he could come in to play. As a caddie, we had to wait in the clubhouse until someone came for us.”

Kim Dumpson, executive vice president of public relations for the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES), monitors the school’s PGA Golf Management University Program. UMES, the only Historically Black College that offers the program, hosted a reception Monday night honoring Sifford.

“On our campus we are pursuing a dream of becoming PGA Professionals,” said Dumpson. “We have 25 African-American students who are poised to become members of the PGA. We have an obligation to let our students know of the impact of Charlie Sifford.”

Charlie Sifford receives Presidential Medal of Freedom
November 24, 2014 - 1:07pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Bryan Brothers
YouTube
In their latest golf trick-shot video, the Bryan Brothers bring in the rest of their family for a little help.

We can always count on Wesley and George Bryan (the Bryan Bros.) for a great golf trick shot video. This week's effort is a fun one. With Thanksgiving just three days away, the Bryan's decided to put together a special family edition, featuring mom, dad and sister, "M.C."

The family members aren't just in the video -- they're active participants.

Check it out:

Great stuff all around. We loved mom's set-up with the putt up the ramp -- especially after she claimed she had no skills.

Our favorite part of the video, however, had nothing to do with the shots. Instead, it was dad's response when Wesley asked, "So when's the last time you felt these kind of nerves? Being a set-up man is nerve-racking."

Dad's response?

"Yeah... The 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah."

That's right: George and Wesley Bryan's father -- George Bryan III -- played in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, where Tiger Woods edged out Sergio Garcia in the end.

The elder George Bryan is a PGA Professional and finished in a tie for eighth in the 1999 PGA Professional National Championship at Whistling Straits to earn a berth in the 1999 PGA Championship field.

Bryan ultimately missed the cut at Medinah, but not many people can say they've played in a major.

Bryan Brothers trick shots Thanksgiving family edition
November 24, 2014 - 8:37am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Odell Beckham, Justin Rose
YouTube
Hours before New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham made arguably the greatest catch in NFL history, Justin Rose pulled off arguably the greatest up and down birdie of the year in golf.

The NFL saw one of its greatest catches ever Sunday night when New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham laid out for an unbelievable one-handed touchdown snag.

Here's that catch in case you missed it:

Earlier in the day, Justin Rose tallied what has to be considered at least a shot of the year candidate in golf.
Rose, playing in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, found himself in a precarious position on the par-4 15th hole after a wayward tee shot -- he was in the trees.

Not the ideal tee shot for a guy in the hunt down the stretch.

But, as you'll see in the video below, Rose pulled off a Seve Ballesteros/Houdini-like escape to make one of the most unlikely birdies these eyes have ever seen.

How about that? Incredible!

That would be the second of three consecutive birdies for Rose, who finished in a tie for second with Rory McIlroy and Victor Dubuisson two strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson. So, not a bad week for European Ryder Cuppers.

Of course, Dubuisson knows a thing -- or two -- about remarkable recovery shots as we saw earlier this year in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Remember these two?

 

Justin Rose's great escape sets up world-class birdie
November 23, 2014 - 8:56am
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Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy watches his errant tee shot Sunday at the 18th hole.

For the rest of us, this is just a matter of luck. But for the world's No. 1 player, it's quite posssible Rory McIlroy meant for this to happen.

Watch McIlroy's errant tee shot -- heading right for the water hazard -- ricochet off a rock and land in the middle of the opposite fairway Sunday on the final hole of the DP World Golf Championship:

 

 

 

Now that takes skill. McIlroy wound up making par but lost the tournament by one stroke to Henrik Stenson. No worries, since McIlroy had already clinched the championship one week ago.

 

Watch: Rory's ricochet shot at Dubai