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SOS for Irish pro-am that gave tens of million$

Woods McManus.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

The best field in a tournament of which many probably have never heard, one generating unimaginable sums of money for charity, will no longer be played, unless...

Unless "bureaucratic nonsense," as former Limerick, Ireland, mayor John Gilligan called it," is jettisoned and the host is amenable to continuing it.

J.P. McManus, who often plays in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, is an Irish billionaire who every five years (starting in 1990) has hosted the J.P. McManus Invitational Pro-Am in Limerick. The 36-hole tournament has raised in excess of $100 million for charity, as much as half that coming in 2010 alone.

Among those who played in 2010 were Tiger Woods (shown above with McManus at the 2010 event), Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott. Woods, who has grown particularly close to McManus, has played in the last three and won it in 2000.

McManus, meanwhile, runs his businesses out of Geneva, Switzerland, and must spend fewer than 183 days in Ireland to avoid paying Irish taxes. "It takes an enormous amount of time [planning the tournament] and now we have less time than we had a few years ago," McManus told the Limerick Leader last year. "The rules have changed. It used to be nights in the country. Now it's days. So if I come in at seven p.m. and go out at seven in the morning that counts as two days here."

Related: How to help your favorite charity golf event produce more profit

In January, he announced that the tournament would not be played in 2015.

Now comes word that Gilligan has submitted a motion to Limerick's city council, asking that it lobby the Irish government to have his residence period in Ireland extended to allow him to continue his tournament. "Organizing a golf classic to international standards and welcoming the top golfers in the world takes a lot of time and effort," Gilligan told the Limerick Leader.

"Just how stupid can we be? Common sense dictates that people like J.P., who spend time raising money for areas and projects which the government cannot or will not fund, should be welcomed with open arms and time spent in doing this should be exempt from this bureaucratic nonsense."

Whether McManus would choose to resurrect his tournament, even should Gilligan succeed, is not known.

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News & Tours

McIlroy can't escape Tiger, as both look to rebound

TigerRory.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By Dave Shedloski

MIAMI - After surrendering what at one point was a four-stroke lead Sunday at the Honda Classic, the last thing Rory McIlroy needed was to see constant reminders of Tiger Woods, golf's ultimate closer, practically everywhere he looked.
 
And that was without leaving his hotel room.
 
One of 69 players entered in this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, McIlroy is staying at the newly renovated resort in the Tiger Woods Villa, which was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony here Wednesday afternoon. Woods and Donald Trump wielded scissors to do the honors, which is about the most strenuous thing the No. 1 player in the world has done since Sunday, when he withdrew from the Honda Classic with back spasms.
 
Both McIlroy and Woods, the defending champion, are on the mend as the year's second World Golf Championship begins Thursday at Trump Doral's revamped Blue Course.
 
Woods said Wednesday that he intends to compete, even though he hasn't hit a shot longer than 60 yards since Sunday and wasn't planning to do more than chipping and putting on what is virtually a new golf course throughout.
 
"I feel better, how about that? I feel good," said Woods, who has just 10 competitive rounds under his belt this year. "It's been a long couple days of just treatment nonstop, trying to get everything calmed down, first of all, get all the inflammation out and from there, getting the firing sequence right again. And once we did that today, feels good."
 
Woods, 38, has worked out with almost fanatical consistency since he turned professional in 1996, and he dismissed the idea that his weight training might have contributed to some of his injuries over the years or might be aggravating a back problem that first struck last August at The Barclays. He said most of his training today is intended to prevent injuries.
 
"That's been a constant throughout my years working with my team, ever since I turned pro, is what can we do to make sure I have a long career?" Woods said. "Unfortunately there are times where I've damaged my knee pretty good and I've had surgeries over the years. I've had knee injury, wrist injury, elbows, you name it, now I've had back, neck. It's the nature of repetitive sport.
 
"As we get older, and I've learned it as I've aged, I don't quite heal as fast as I used to. I just don't bounce back like I used to.  There's times that watching my kids run around '[I think] I wish I could do that again.' They just bounce right up, bruises, and they are gone in a day. It's just not that way anymore."
 
McIlroy, still trying to bounce back from his disappointing 2013 season, took a small step backwards when he lost to Russell Henley in a four-man playoff after leading the Honda Classic after each of the first three rounds. Perhaps the youngster from Northern Ireland will get a little inspiration spending so much time in the presence of Woods, so to speak.

Related: Rory McIlroy needs to do lunch with Nicklaus again

"I'm staying in this Tiger Woods Villa here and there's pictures all over my room of him," McIlroy, 24, said, drawing laughs.  "I sent him a message [Tuesday night], 'Can't get away from you here, I can't go to the bathroom without looking at you.' No, it's not like you're coming into the tournament thinking of one particular player.  But obviously if Tiger's not 100 percent it makes it a little easier on the field for sure. "
 
Of course, Woods, winner of 79 PGA Tour titles, wasn't around at the end last week. McIlroy just couldn't find the right shots down the stretch as he closed with a 4-over 74 at the difficult Champion Course at PGA National Resort and barely missed capturing his first tour win since the 2012 BMW Championship.
 
Though he hasn't reviewed what transpired over the closing holes, McIlroy has worked on the shots that troubled him. His confidence has needed no such attention.
 
"The run of form that I've been on, it validates what I've been working on and what I've been trying to do with my golf game," he said. "I'm in a really happy place with where everything is at in my swing. Mentally I feel good. My putting feels good, scrambling. So it means when you go out to the golf course, you're confident and you're thinking about shooting low scores. You're thinking about getting into contention straightaway.
 
"If you keep giving yourself those chances, then hopefully learn from the mistakes, then you're going to eventually walk through the door and win, and then when you get into the habit of it, it becomes a bit easier."
 
Sounds like a formula that he'll be reminded of constantly this week.


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News & Tours

Why Rory McIlroy will see a lot of Tiger Woods this week... off the course

By Alex Myers

Apparently, there are Tiger Woods Villas at Trump National Doral. Apparently, Rory McIlroy is staying in them this week.

Related: Rory's meltdown, Tiger's back, and Natalie's abs

That much we learned during a lighthearted part of a press conference with the McIlroy on Wednesday ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

"I'm staying in Tiger Woods villas, there's photos of him all over . . . I can't get away from him," McIlroy said.

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Since he burst onto the scene, McIlroy hasn't been able to get away from comparisons to Woods either. At least, the two are friends. In fact, McIlroy said he almost sent Woods a text saying, "I can't go to the bathroom without looking at you." That's not creepy or anything. . .

Related: Like Tiger, Like Rory

McIlroy will see Woods on the course this week as well. The World No. 1, who withdrew during the final round last week with a bad back, will try to defend his title this week.

It was all part of an interesting day for McIlroy, who is coming off a playoff loss at the Honda Classic. The AP's Doug Ferguson reported Rory had to wait to approach the ninth green during his practice round. The reason? The Trump helicopter was taking off.

UPDATE: Woods appeared with Donald Trump at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Tiger Woods Villa on Wednesday afternoon. Ivanka Trump posted this picture on Instagram shortly after:

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We hope Rory didn't have to wait too long to get back into his room. . .

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News & Tours

Rory McIlroy needs to do lunch with Nicklaus again

By John Strege

A few years ago, they did lunch, Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy, and Nicklaus offered up this piece of advice: Those against whom he was competing were more likely to beat themselves than they were to beat him and he was happy to oblige them.

They need to do lunch again soon.

blog-rory-mcilroy-0302.jpgThe only player McIlroy beat in the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday was himself, kicking away a victory that he probably already had rung up on his resume.

Related: A frame-by-frame look at McIlroy's swing

Instead, he played a critical stretch of holes deplorably, more Nicklaus prey than Nicklaus, and misplayed himself into a playoff foursome. He lost to a Russell Henley birdie on the first extra hole.

McIlroy, 24, has now gone 17 months since his last PGA Tour victory, a mystifying famine for a former world No. 1 who had collected two major championships quicker than Tiger Woods won his first two.

As mystifying was the manner in which he collapsed, losing control of his game while in cruise control. He held a three-shot lead on the front nine and was 13-under par after six holes, and the competition was comprised of the sort of players to whom Nicklaus was referring during his lunch -- Henley, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer, who collectively had only four victories.

Nicklaus re-iterated the point on the NBC telecast on Sunday. "One thing that Rory's got to think about here is who's on the leader board," Nicklaus said. "When I was playing we used to have Johnny Miller on the leader board, or we had Tom Weiskopf, or Tom Watson, or Arnold, or Gary, or Trevino, who you know were going to finish. These guys are kind of unproven. They're all good players, but not proven. Rory is a proven player and Rory should have the advantage coming down the stretch with them."

One would think. But he bogeyed the seventh, nine and 12ths holes, then stood over a fairway bunker shot at 16 an inordinately long time. "A couple extra looks there," NBC's Johnny Miller said, after which McIlroy hit the shot heavy and into the water, leading to a double-bogey.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest slumps

Only an 18th hole birdie allowed him to get to a playoff. It gave him a round of 74, the highest score of those in the playoff. "Even if I had won it [in the playoff] it would have felt a little bit undeserved," he said.

At that lunch with Nicklaus, McIlroy once said, Nicklaus "emphasized so much to me about not making mistakes. That was his big thing." Let the others beat themselves and they won't beat you.

The others in this case attempted to uphold their end, but ultimately McIlroy was no better than they were, worse actually, signifying another lunch date is in order. Next time, Rory, take notes.

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News & Tours

Chamblee: Tiger lacks firepower he once had

By John Strege

It always seemed unlikely that Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee would temper his analysis of Tiger Woods in the wake of the controversy he created last year with his grading Woods' season an F and saying that he was "a little cavalier with the rules."

TW.jpg

Here's proof, from Golf Channel's Golf Central Pregame Sunday morning, that Chamblee is still on the Tiger beat:

"Curious fact, that he is in his 17th year as a professional golfer and with all of his talents and skills and firepower he's never been able to come from further back than five on the PGA Tour to ultimately win. The last time he did that was 2009, at Bay Hill, and he was in the final group. At that stage of his life he was far more intimidating of a figure. This year he's played seven rounds of PGA Tour golf preceding this week. Six times he was beaten...Yesterday he was playing with Luke Guthrie. Tiger shot 65, Luke Guthrie also shot 65.

"Of course he thinks he can win. But he needs some help and the players don't think he's as capable of winning now as he used to be. In other words, he can't intimidate them to the extent that he used to. He's not as long as he used to be. His clubhead speed on the third hole yesterday was 115 miles an hour. Russell Henley's was 116, and he's not one of the longest hitters out here. Rory McIlroy was 122 miles an hour. In 2008, Tiger Woods' clubhead speed was 124 miles an hour.

"Literally and figuratively he doesn't have the firepower he used to have. He's got to win with different nuances."

Woods begins the final round of the Honda Classic trailing leader Rory McIlroy by seven.

(Getty Images photo)


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News & Tours

What a difference a year makes for Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic

By Dave Shedloski

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Well, poetic justice has amazing timing.

Rory McIlroy resumed his plundering of the Champion Course at PGA National Resort on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Honda Classic, shooting a 7-under-par 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Russell Henley.

Related: Rory McIlroy takes lead while Tiger Woods struggles

Just one year after quitting midway through the second round after shooting 7 over par through 8 holes, McIlroy was bogey-free in firing his lowest score on the PGA Tour since a 64 in the 2012 BMW Championship. The score was three strokes lower than any of the four rounds he posted in 2012 when he won the Honda Classic by two shots.

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"Golf's . . . a very fickle game, because when you're on and you're playing the way I'm playing right now and feeling very comfortable with everything, you wonder how it ever felt so uncomfortable," said McIlroy, who had girlfriend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, watching every shot. "And then when it feels so uncomfortable, you wonder how it ever felt so comfortable. And it's just a tiny thing that needs to click."

McIlroy, 24, of Northern Ireland, was having a ho-hum steady round of 2 under at the turn, but stuck his approach to 8 feet at the 10th for an easy birdie and then ran in a 45-foot birdie at the tough 11th hole. He was on his way, and he finished with an up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a final birdie at the par-5 18th.

Last year's meltdown now has been exorcised, or so it seemed. Not that he much acknowledged it, which was probably the right attitude.

Related: A year after a WD, McIlroy is in a better place

"It's not like I was out there thinking about what had happened last year or what had happened the year before that when I won," McIlroy said. "It's a new tournament. It's on a tough golf course, and you know, I need to focus all my energy and thoughts into playing these 18 holes. You can't really let any other thoughts creep into your mind because it is such a tough golf course. ... You've got to sort of stay on point the whole time."

And he proved that point quite well.

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News & Tours

Rory McIlroy: 'I'm happy with where I am now'

By Dave Shedloski

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- There was no mention of whether he ever fixed that pesky wisdom tooth, but plenty of other things have changed since Rory McIlroy hastily pulled out of last year's Honda Classic, perhaps the low point to a disappointing year for the two-time major winner.

"Yeah, there was a lot of things going on at that time," McIlroy said Wednesday at PGA National Resort, recalling last year's messy withdrawal midway through the second round. "Obviously my game wasn't where I wanted it to be. My mental state wasn't quite where I needed it to be. There were a few things occupying my thoughts that probably didn't need to be and shouldn't have been, but it was just a very difficult time."

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The defending champion after holding off Tiger Woods and Tom Gillis by two strokes in 2012, McIlroy stomped off the Champion Course without finishing the 18th hole, his ninth of the day. He had rinsed his second shot on 18 after playing the first eight in seven over par. As he exited the grounds that day, he was clearly frustrated, and he said so. Later, he blamed his struggles on a sore wisdom tooth.

As he prepares for his second U.S. start of 2014, McIlroy, winless on the PGA Tour since the 2012 BMW Championship, more readily shows off a toothy smile.

"You should never walk off the golf course, no matter how bad things are," said the former No. 1 player in the world. "It was just one of these days, I just felt like I couldn't cope with anything more, especially not the way I was heading. I was going to shoot 90 -- the last thing I needed.

"It's not embarrassing because I think a lot of people in the same situation might have done the same thing," added the native of Northern Ireland, who promised he would react differently if confronted with similar adversity. "I've learned from it, and I've moved on. Yeah, I mean, it wasn't my finest hour, but at the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes.

"I'm glad that everything has sort of just been cleared up. I'm happy with where I am now."

Related: Two Of A Kind: Tiger Woods & Rory McIlroy

McIlroy, 24, is in a better place for several reasons. He's in the process of concluding some legal matters related to leaving his management company and starting his own, he is engaged to one of the world's top tennis players, Caroline Wozniacki, and he has made several equipment adjustments that have restored confidence in his game.

McIlroy, No. 8 in the world (three slots higher than Wozniacki's WTA ranking), said he employed a new ball-driver combination in October, about 10 months after he switched to Nike equipment.

"The ball and the driver, figuring out what that combination is, definitely helped," he said. "I'm swinging the club much better than I have done and as good as I ever have done, and I'm very comfortable with it. It's been a lot of hard work and a bit of a grind, but I'm definitely back to a place now where I feel comfortable off the tee."

While he regrets his behavior during last year's tournament, McIlroy has no regrets about the nearly yearlong trial-and-error process with his equipment.

"You want the clubs to fit you, and it's going to take time tinkering and giving feedback and everything. But if I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same thing, because I'd rather just do it, just get six months, seven months, whatever it is, and say, okay, I don't really care about results here, I just want to make sure that this is right, and I've said this before, six months out of a 20, 25-year career isn't that much."

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News & Tours

Stats show Rory is playing about as well as at this time last year, and only a win in Dubai can change that

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Rory McIlroy's opening round 63 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic seems to reaffirm that the slump the World No. 6 was in for most of the 2013 calendar year might be behind him ... or does it? Is it really a sign that good times are ahead?

Instead of waiting to see how the rest of this week's tournament -- or the rest of this year -- finished to answer that question, we decided to do some snap analysis that compares Rory at this point in his 2013-14 season to where he stood at the same time in the 2012-13 season.

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To do this, we specifically analyzed just the events where Rory was able to collect Official World Golf Ranking points, and only the four-month time frame from the conclusion of the FedEx Cup season to the end of January.

Here then is how Rory's results looked between his final 2012 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2013:

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And here's how his results look between his final 2013 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2014:

blog-rory-13-14-480.jpg
Now for a side-by-side look:

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What can we gather from this solid stretch from Rory? Well, perhaps we shouldn't jump to any conclusions that this season will be remarkably different from a year ago since he's actually playing at a level almost identical to this point in 2013.

Despite competing in two fewer events a year ago, Rory finished with as many wins and top-three finishes as he has now. His scoring average, too, was a touch lower. And before Thursday's 63, Rory's low round in both time periods was a 65, shot once each time. 


What's perhaps more interesting is how Rory does when he plays poorly now compared to a year ago. In 2012-13, Rory finished either really good -- top three or better -- or really bad, as in missed cut. In 2013-14, his performances have been less erratic -- no missed cuts and more top 10s. That's why his average point total per start is slightly higher this year. Granted, it's a small sample size.*

(*The one thing we haven't touched upon here, of course, is the complicating factor of McIlroy's equipment switch from Titleist to Nike clubs at the beginning of 2013. How large a role that played in his subsequent struggles last year is subject for debate. Presumably, though, that factor potentially contributing to his 2013 slump isn't a variable he'll be fighting in 2014.) 

Either way, a win in Dubai would change some things. Most notably, it would give him about 48 World Ranking points, meaning that, on paper, he'd be playing better than at this point last year.

Anything outside of that, however, and the question of whether he's really playing better right now than he was 12 months ago remains.


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News & Tours

Video: Rory McIlroy puts on a show for Tiger Woods in Dubai

By Alex Myers

Unless you stayed up really late last night, you probably missed watching Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods playing in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic. And if that's the case, you missed quite a show -- from Rory, as least.

Related: Like Tiger, like Rory? Their careers compared

McIlroy fired an opening 63 to dust his playing partner, the world's top-ranked golfer, by five shots. According to this highlight package, Woods was hitting the ball "sideways," but posted a solid round thanks to some remarkable scrambling. McIlroy needed no such help from his short game:

Clearly, the shot of the day was a McIlroy 5-wood that carried about 250 yards and then gently rolled out to about 10 feet to set up an eagle. Not that we should be too surprised. McIlroy has a win, a runner-up, a T-5 and a T-6 in his last four worldwide events entering this week. So much for that slump.

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News & Tours

This Nike commercial of Rory McIlroy and Wayne Rooney is fantastic

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Here it is. The commercial we've all been waiting for. The one that Rory McIlroy skipped Graeme McDowell's wedding to film. It would be pretty hard for McIlroy to top his commercial back in June, where he takes on a trash-talking robot, but with this one, he might have just done it.

The gist of the advert is pretty simple: Rory McIlroy plays golf against Manchester United (the team McIlroy supports) and England's soccer superstar Wayne Rooney, who plays a combination of golf and soccer exceedingly well. Throw in some snazzy music and a surprise appearance from Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, and out pops a great commercial. Hopefully Graeme can find it in his heart to forgive him.

Check it out:


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