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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Rory McIlroy used to win the British Open

By E. Michael Johnson

HOYLAKE, England -- There was something about Rory McIlroy that was lost in the glare of the glitzy unveiling of his mega deal with Nike last year in Abu Dhabi.

When it comes to equipment, he's a bit of a gear head.

The fact was evident during a sitdown with him last month to discuss his Nike clubs.

"I was really into different shafts and everything," McIlroy said. "I guess now I've got a little more to think about and worry about than just being focused on new equipment. So I let the guys that know more about it than I do help me on that. I let them put the stuff in my hands that they think is going to work, and then we go forward from there."

Not that McIlroy doesn't provide valuable input into the process. "This is really the first time I've worked with a manufacturer where I've been so involved," he said. "We might discuss something, and the guys will come back a couple of weeks later and right away we're working on how does this look, how does it feel, is it what you imagined it to be like. I've worked really hard with the guys on developing stuff that's going to work for me."

Those clubs worked quite well for the newly crowned British Open champion at Royal Liverpool, specifically his Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour driver.

loop-rory-equipment-driver-518.jpg"I remember having a conversation at the Barclays last year at dinner," McIlroy said. "We talked a lot about Covert 2.0 and what it was going to be like and what I'd like to see in the driver and what sort of things I'd like to change from the current model."

And what did McIlroy want to alter? "Everything is related to the details," he said. "I want it to look a certain way. I want the face to sort of look a little longer so I can square it up at impact. Then there's the technical: Why they do certain things like a cavity back in the driver. It all makes sense to me now."

Enough sense to get the third major win of his career. Here's the clubs and ball McIlroy had in his bag at Royal Liverpool.

Ball: Nike RZN Black
Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 15 degrees
Irons (2): Nike MM Proto (3-9): Nike VR Pro Blade; (PW): Nike VR Forged
Wedges: Nike VR Forged (54, 59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006

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News & Tours

5 things Rory McIlroy can do to avoid blowing up on Friday

By Ryan Herrington


HOYLAKE, England -- It may be an exaggeration, but only a moderate one. When Rory McIlroy steps to the tee Friday at Royal Liverpool, it might be the most anticipated second round in recent British Open history.

Can the supremely talented Northern Irishman get rid of his case of the Freaky Fridays?

loop-rory-mcilroy-3-518.jpgFor the fifth time in seven career Open starts, McIlroy opened with an under-par round, shooting a bogey-free 66 to take the midway lead in Round 1 at Hoylake. In the process, he lent more credence to the label of being golf's best first-round performer.

Yet the previous four times McIlroy got off to fast starts in the world's oldest major, he crashed landed in Round 2. Here are the sad stats.

2007/Carnoustie: 69-76
2009/Turnberry: 69-74
2010/St. Andrews: 63-80
2012/Royal Lytham: 67-75

We'll do the math for you: The average scoring difference from first to second round is 9.5 strokes higher, a number bogged down by the 17-stroke swing at the Old Course four years ago that admittedly was a weather-aided stumble.

A similar pattern has happened during the 2014 PGA Tour season, where Rory's second-round stroke average is nearly five strokes higher than his first.

So what then can Rory do to avoid a similar fate? Putting on our sports psychologist hat, we offer a few suggestions.

1. Stop thinking about the second-round thing.
Easier said than done, we know, considering it's all anyone in the media wanted to talk about with McIlroy not just after his Thursday round, but in the run up to the Open after Rory shot a 64-78 in the first two rounds of last week's Scottish Open. To McIlroy's credit, he's admitted part of the issue is that this has gotten to his head. In many instances, acknowledging you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. However, harping on the fact you've got one doesn't seem all that wise. It's the dwelling that leaves a mark.

2. Don't set your alarm and sleep in.
McIlroy benefited from the early tee time Thursday, when soft winds and sunny skies left scoring conditions at their peak. However, it means that he doesn't begin his Friday round until 2:27 p.m. That's an awful lot of time to keep the negative thoughts from creeping in. Get some rest.

3. Take it one shot at a time.
Pardon the golf psychobabble, but there is a logic to the tried-and-true golf cliché. Part of McIlroy's issues have been that when his second rounds start to go on the skids, he tries to make up for all his bogeys on a single hole. Should McIlroy get off to a rough start again Friday, it will be critical that he not think about his overall 18-hole score but rather the number he is posting on each hole.

4. Don't let up.
Among the keys to McIlroy's low first-round scores is his ability to keep pushing to make more birdies rather than protecting what's already a good round. It's the same mindset he needs to take into Friday.

5. Don't sweat the bad weather.
The forecast for the afternoon isn't looking great, which could become an issue, obviously. Taking it in stride will be important, something that Rory hasn't always done in the past.

In this respect, we like what we heard from McIlroy in his post-round interview. "I am glad that I went up to Aberdeen last week and played under some different conditions," McIlroy noted. "I feel like I'm well prepared this week for whatever conditions. I've practiced the shots that I might need for a bad day like tomorrow might be."

Is that confidence in Rory's voice? Suffice it to say, that will also go a long way to letting McIlroy walk off the course Friday with a smile on his face.

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News & Tours

Yep, Rory McIlroy struggled backing up a good first round ... again

By John Huggan

ABERDEEN, Scotland -- It is now, by a distance, the burning question in golf: Just what does Rory McIlroy do on Thursday nights?

For seemingly the umpteenth time this year the 25-year-old Ulsterman followed up a blistering opening round (seven-under 64) with one best described as blundering (78). Eight birdies and one bogey one day; one birdie, six bogeys and one double the next. It was a veritable catalog of disaster that could actually have been worse. On each of the last two holes in his second round at this Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, McIlroy bravely got up-and-down from greenside sand to save par -- and break 80.

loop-rory-mcilroy-scottish-rd2-518.jpgIt must also be acknowledged that the two-time major champion was far from alone in finding Royal Aberdeen's Balgownie links -- protected by the prevailing southeasterly -- a fearsome test. Take Russell Knox. Leading the tournament and eight under par for the first 30 holes of his professional debut in his homeland, the 28-year-old from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands finished alongside McIlroy at even par. Two double bogeys and four bogeys over the closing six holes will do that to a man.

There's more, so much more.

A player good enough to finish T-4 in last month's U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka, had a 10 on one hole. South African Darren Fichardt made a double bogey on the short 12th then made a quadruple on the next hole. England's Tom Lewis raced to the turn downwind in 31 then trudged home in 40. U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick stumbled round in 79, making but one birdie. And Ian Poulter, needing an unlikely birdie at the closing hole to make the cut, instead made a triple bogey.

And here's the bigger news: the wind wasn't that strong. Not by Caledonian standards. If it ever does get up beyond moderate, one can only imagine the carnage that will ensue. Largely raised on a diet of "hit-and-stick" golf, today's up-and-coming band of "superstars" seem generally ill-equipped to cope with anything out of professional golf's increasingly one-dimensional norm. Certainly, on a day when the ball had to be on the ground more than in the air, their shot-making limitations were savagely exposed by not much more than a zephyr.

"We older guys grew up playing more links golf than the youngsters do these days," said Nick Faldo, the 57-year old six-time major champion, after his second successive 73. "My contemporaries knew the value of hitting to the middle of the green and not being too aggressive when it isn't really smart or necessary. To achieve that in conditions like these, the old school had more shots in them.

"Older guys tend to 'see' more shots," Faldo continued. "In today's game, a lot of youngsters play one way. They hit the same shot over and over. Which makes them big checks most weeks. But to make the next step -- to make yourself a major champion -- you've got to have the ability and the trust to vary your attack. At the highest level and especially on a fast-running seaside links, that's what makes the difference."

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News & Tours

The real takeaway from Rory McIlroy's course-record 64 at the Scottish Open

By John Huggan

loop-rory-mcilroy-iron-aberdeen-280.jpgABERDEEN, Scotland -- On the eve of this Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, Rory McIlroy was making strangely positive noises about a Round 1 weather forecast that promised much in the way of precipitation.

"You've got to relish the challenge," said the man who, three years previously, had openly expressed a deep and profound distaste for a similar combination of links courses and less-than-perfect meteorological conditions. "I'm trying to adopt more of that mind-set, especially for these two weeks of the year."

Well, it's working, so far at least. When the predicted rainfall failed to materialize -- there's a shock -- McIlroy took advantage. In a breeze that was strong enough to help him drive the green on the 436-yard 13th, the 25-year-old Ulsterman made eight birdies and one bogey in an opening-round 64. By two shots, it represented a new course record for the glorious Balgownie links.

"I was really pleased with how I controlled my game," he said. "To be able to go out and trust the shots I have been practicing over the last 10 days was great."

That it was. On a classic out-and-back links, McIlroy mastered the more difficult front-nine -- wind blow against and from the left -- to be three under at the turn: "That was a good score today, a really good nine holes of golf."

Four more birdies followed on an inward-half that Phil Mickelson's caddie, Jim (Bones) MacKay, described as "made for Rory." Indeed, it was the helping right-to-left wind that allowed McIlroy, a natural drawer of the ball, to produce that monster drive on the 13th and reduce many holes to "drive and kick."

The differences between the two nines were more than marked, of course, a fact McIlroy underlined with a variety of examples.

"I hit a really good drive into the wind on the seventh," he said. "And they measured it at 255 yards. Then on the 12th I drove it 373 yards. On the third hole I hit a 4-iron and it pitched at 187 yards and ran out another 40 yards. Then on the seventh I hit the same club 160 yards. That's nearly a 70-yard difference."

Most pleasing to the former U.S. Open and PGA champion, however, was his ability to control the flight on his shots, inevitably a key factor on a fast-running links.

"I've always been a natural player in that I can hit a high fade or low draw," he explained. "But today I was hitting little 6-irons from 150 yards and 4-irons 165 yards with the aim of keeping the ball down. I feel very confident with those shots at the minute."

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News & Tours

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.

blog-tiger-rory-0305.jpg

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:

blog-tiger-woods-villa-0305.jpg

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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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.

blog-rory-mcilroy-0227.jpg

"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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July 28, 2014

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