Posts tagged Honda Classic
On Friday afternoon, amidst the fallout of world No. 1 Rory McIlroy packing up and walking off of PGA National after just 26 holes at the Honda Classic, speculation ran rampant as to what was ailing the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland.
The cited wisdom tooth pain didn’t hold much water from the moment the McIlroy’s Horizon Sports Management pitched it. After all, in defending the US Open last year, McIlroy famously made the questionable choice to hit a ball that had come to rest behind a tree root. Despite a strained wrist, McIlroy soldiered on to play three and a half more rounds of golf.
The wisdom tooth that McIlroy cited is not entirely fictitious. Indeed, McIlroy has been dealing with the problem for some time, yet hasn’t had the opportunity to have it removed (and still won’t, until after the US Open). But the collective gut of the golfing world knew it was something more, and dammit, McIlroy would have to fess up to what it was.
Wednesday morning at
Trump Doral, McIlroy was going to have his come to Jesus moment with the press. They were going to badger him about what was really going on. No more glowing articles. He needed to stand up and be a man about what he did, and you better believe they were going to make him earn it.
That’s what they thought, anyway.
Instead, Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Bamberger scooped everyone on Sunday night, talking to McIlroy and finding out the information that everyone suspected, but needed to hear from the source.
“It was a reactive decision,” McIlroy said in a 25-minute telephone interview on Sunday night, two hours after Michael Thompson won the Honda for his first Tour title. “What I should have done is take my drop, chip it on, try to make a five and play my hardest on the back nine, even if I shot 85. What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me — it was not the right thing to do.
Well, what was the media supposed to do until Wednesday. As poorly as McIlroy’s team handled the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal, they did equally as good a job at getting ahead of the press conference.
Come Wednesday, the wounds of being walked out on by the world No. 1 were not as fresh; scabs had formed. While the expected questions were asked, McIlroy did nothing but dress the wounds, rub some Neosporin on it and charm everybody to death.
“He gets it,” recounted innumerable members of the media.
“Wise beyond his years,” echoed still more.
The WD had turned into a backstory as the grace and honesty McIlroy showed in the media center once again became the headliner. And as much of media went back in the good graces of Team McIlroy, the game of the world No. 1 is still in no-mans-land.
On the back burner of the lovefest was McIlroy’s admission of a failing golf swing. Once compared by David Feherty to being as effortless as “snow falling off a branch,” the swing that carried McIlroy to golf’s summit is not in a great place at the minute.
The flaw has been identified — McIlroy is taking the club away too far to the outside, thus resulting in a downswing that comes too much from the inside — and is in the process of being fixed. The “swing change” McIlroy described is more of a swing restoration, but it’s still not ready to produce the consistency and exceptional play we have come to expect from Rory.
When we will get the PGA Championship Rory back remains to be seen. Will he be ready and fixed for Augusta? Still unknown.
What is understood is that staying at the top isn’t going to be easy. It takes more work to stay ranked No. 1 than it did to get there. McIlroy seems to have accepted that as fact and is working to remain atop his perch.
His game might not be there right now, but his charm and wit are hitting on all cylinders and it would seem that the results on the course will be back on track soon, as well.
Step back and take a breath.
Doesn’t that feel better? In the minutes and hours following Rory McIlroy withdrawing from the Honda Classic citing “wisdom tooth pain,” the reaction from the golf world was decidedly undecided.
At 7-over par through eight holes in his second round and on his way to his second “other” of the day, McIlroy rinsed two balls on the 18th hole (his ninth) before promptly walking off the course and straight into a blue BMW SUV, John Daly style.
Head down and draped by a police officer and his swing coach, journalists on the scene scrambled to get some information as to what was ailing the world’s top-ranked golfer.
Details were scarce. According to McIlroy’s agent, “(Rory)’s not hurt. He’s not sick. And he won’t answer his phone. I don’t know.”
McIlroy, himself, told a gaggle of reporters that he wasn’t there mentally, that’s all. Unfortunately for McIlroy and his team, that’s not a good enough reason to withdraw. They needed a medical reason or a serious family emergency to keep from being fined.
The guys at Horizon Sports decided on “wisdom tooth pain” as the ailment du jour, although other reports say different, undetectable medical problems were considered.
Whatever the reason, the time to ratchet up the panic meter on McIlroy’s form is rapidly approaching. Truly, the withdrawal from the Honda Classic in and of itself isn’t that big of a deal. It’s an early-season tournament with little to no bearings on the major championships or the rest of the season.
Fact is, McIlroy basically got an early jump on his 12 minute ride home by about two and a half hours. He wasn’t going to make the cut. Perhaps that truth is what is rubbing some people the wrong way.
As the world’s No. 1 player, maybe he is required to fight through that nagging tooth pain. However, what’s done is done. Now, it’s time to speculate.
A plethora of reasons have been thrown out to the masses as to what could be eating at McIlroy with the equipment change at or near the top of most of those lists. Others have pointed to trouble in paradise with McIlroy’s relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, or that he isn’t playing enough competitive golf.
Nevertheless, there seems to be something going on with McIlroy beyond the toothache.
According to the Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte, McIlroy’s “big brother” on Tour, Graeme McDowell said that perhaps the expectations are becoming too much for the 23-year-old.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. McIlroy has only grown in popularity both on and off the course with his ascension to the summit of the golfing world. With the various distractions and expectations that come with said world ranking, maybe McIlroy needs some time to adapt.
Of course, he won’t get any. All he will receive between now and his next scheduled start at the WGC-Cadillac Championship next week are questions about the withdrawal, the clubs and what’s really going on.
Always a streaky player, there is little reason to worry about McIlroy’s future developing down a similar path to that of David Duval, falling of the face of the Earth for a couple of years after climbing to No. 1.
That being said, there is a cause for concern. The question of McIlroy’s form returning still lends itself to more “when” than “if,” yet this is as close to panic-mode as McIlroy supporters have been throughout his career.
It remains paramount to keep this tournament in the proper context, still. The Honda Classic isn’t the Masters, but it’s not the club championship either. Everything is coming to a head for McIlroy and it will be interesting to see how he handles this latest setback and how he responds.
Balls are in the air at the Honda Classic, one of the most anticipated starts of the year namely because two individuals are teeing it up in the same stroke play tournament for the first time in the US this year.
Anytime Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are pegging it at the same place, it’s news. Hell, look how much play the story of the pair playing at Tiger’s club, The Medalist, on Sunday of the Match Play got. Nearly as much, if not more than, Kuchar’s win at the first World Golf Championship of the year.
Couple the star power and (wisdom of putting the two on) opposite tee times, and the Honda Classic should draw some of the biggest ratings of the year for Thursday and Friday on the PGA Tour.
Add into the mix a solid field made up of some of the top Europeans in the world and some of the rising stars of the PGA Tour, the Honda has evolved into a big-time tournament on the level of Bay Hill, Wells-Fargo and the Memorial.
Of course, the location of the tournament has been to its distinct advantage. A proverbial “home game” for many of the games biggest stars, it’s pretty easy to convince the guys to roll out of bed and head over to the Jack Nicklaus-designed PGA National and play for a million bucks.
Bench: (A) Graeme McDowell, (B) Louis Oosthuizen and David Lynn, (C) Russell Henley.
Rationale: The decision to tap Tiger Woods this week isn’t ever a very difficult one, but this one did come with a bit of hesitancy. Eldrick, of course, is Eldrick. He shot 62 here on Sunday last year, but he was knocked out in the first round of the Match Play last week.
Chalk one up to the volatility of match play and trust Tiger to keep up his early season surge as he prepares for the Masters.
On the bench, G-Mac is easier to throw in the lineup after a solid showing at the Match Play where he won three matches before falling to Jason Day. The consummate grinder, McDowell should be able to deal with the Bear Trap.
This B grouping is loaded with proven form plus one wild card. Starting are Freddie Jac and Justin Rose.
Jacobson is playing some of the best golf of his life. He’s finished in the top-10 in his last three starts this year and his worst finish in the last three years at PGA National was a T-16.
JRose is hot as well. He hasn’t finished outside of the top-25 in his last 10 worldwide starts. Rose finished T5 at the Honda last year and in the top-10 the last time he was there.
On the bench are Louis Oosthuizen and David Lynn. Oosty is another guy playing well this year, already with a win under his belt at the Africa Open in early January. David Lynn is a bit of a wildcard. He’s played five times this year with three cuts made, but in the spirit of Tom Gillis’ come-outta-nowhere T2 last year, why not take a reach on Lynn?
As has been the case most of the year, the C group is giving you a lot of bang for your buck. This week is no different with one of the hottest players on the planet getting the start.
Schwartzel, like Tiger, was a popular pick last week at the Match Play, but disappointed. Still, ride the hot hand while it’s still giving. And on the bench is a winner on Tour this year, Russell Henley. Tough not to be confident in this play as he was the one who knocked Schwartzel out last week and has proven time and again that he’s ready for the big stage.
Woods was vague with the PGA Tour media officials as he left Doral, telling Chris Reimer, the PGA Tour Communications Manager, “Tell them it’s my leg.” [Which leg?] “It’s my left leg.”
Of course, we know now thanks to Woods’ Twitter page that it was his left Achilles that was bothering him and his doctor diagnosed him with a mild strain of said tendon.
It would appear as if Woods withdrew as a precautionary measure to ensure that he would be able to play in the Masters, the year’s first major, in three weeks in East Georgia. He was given the go-ahead from his doctor that he could resume hitting balls later in the week and that he would be hopeful for next week’s Bay Hill Invitational (as well as the Tavistock Cup, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday).
Now, there is no reason to rehash Tiger’s injury timeline, other people have done that ad nauseum. What’s most important to understand is something that we probably won’t know for a few months or even years.
As with everything circling around Eldrick, there is a cloud of doubt or unknowing curiosity.
After his one-legged US Open victory in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, we came to find out that Woods had ruptured his Achilles while rehabbing his knee, something, we were told, carries a direct correlation with his rehab.
The only problem with that was, Woods and Co. didn’t let us know that he had suffered that rather significant injury until the 2010 Masters.
More than likely, Woods decided to drop that bomb at that time because it would give the media something other than his “transgressions” to talk about beings that it was his first tournament post-hydrant.
What is really concerning is the not knowing. Woods showed his latest, and arguably, closest return to form last week at the Honda Classic, highlighted by his final-round 62 on Sunday that put brought him just short of Rory McIlroy.
Now, a week and a half later, we sit scratching our heads, wondering, prognosticating and generally, guessing what Woods’ latest WD means.
He has withdrawn three times in the last three years (2010 Players, 2011 Players and 2012 Cadillac Championship) and each time was shrouded with confusion.
Woods’ people released a statement on TigerWoods.com that read in part, “He had tightness in the left Achilles warming up and it got progressively worse as the round went on.”
Then Woods’ explanation:
“After hitting my tee shot on 12, I felt it was necessary to withdraw,” Woods said. “In the past, I would have continued to play, but this time I decided to do what I thought was necessary.”
Optomists will say that Woods WD’d in favor of keeping himself healthy for the long run. That he played three weeks in a row and it’s not uncommon to feel a little worn down. That for the best chance at the Masters, he should take every precaution.
The only down side is that others point out the how the injury bug has firmly inserted itself into Tiger’s game. And despite being 36, it’s an “old 36” with “a lot of mileage on that body.”
So, what do we know for sure? In short: nothing, and Woods will likely keep it that way. If it was a mild strain, we likely won’t hear any more about it, but if it’s something worse, then we may find out that, too.
Except it might not be for a few years.
When you’ve been playing golf for as long as you’ve been able to stand, winning at every level prodigiously and then going out and beating the best players in the world handily from 1997 on, you tend to have a pretty good memory bank of golf shots to fall back on.
Tiger Woods has one of the fullest memories in modern golf history. Winning more than 100 golf tournaments over his 36 years on earth, which include 14 major championships, Woods has a plethora of shot types stored away.
It shouldn’t be unreasonable, then, to assume that Woods’ memory is his greatest asset.
Take this past week’s Honda Classic, for example. Woods shot rounds of 71-68-69-62 to come up two shots shy of eventual winner Rory McIlroy.
Of course, the number that jumps out at you from the above series would be Woods’ Sunday 62, an 8-under par round that featured two eagles, four birdies and no bogeys.
So, what happened during Sunday’s round that was so different from the previous three? It could have been the clear goal that he set for himself.
“I thought starting out the day that 6‑under was, for the day, and 8‑under for the tournament, was going to be the number to shoot to at least put myself where I had a chance,” Woods said. “But that changed quite a bit when the wind died down.
“When I turned at 4(-under), I had to change that game plan because the wind was not blowing as hard, and I knew the guys were not going to back up as much.”
However, Woods has long said that he always thinks about the conditions and tries to put a firm number that he believes will be enough to give him a chance to win before he tees off.
It could have been that his swing finally came around and he was making putts. But then again, Woods has been adamant in his defense of his new swing, saying that it’s a process and a work in progress.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Woods’ ability to get the most out of his game on Sunday was thinking back to shots he had already hit.
“I felt today, starting out when the wind was really howling, I just kept telling myself, I played great in Australia and they are the same kind of conditions,” Woods said after his final round. “There’s no reason why I can’t do it today. I took some pretty good comfort in that.”
With thoughts of Oz, as Woods calls it, Tiger had a peace of mind and good thoughts to fall back on. With golf being such a mental game, it’s nice to have good memories going through your head as you play a shot. It breeds confidence in knowing he’s been there before.
Similarly, when Tiger needed a good shot on No. 18 to really put some pressure on McIlroy, he tracked back into his memory bank to remember a similar shot.
What he came up with was one of his most famous approaches, his shot from the fairway bunker at Glen Abbey Golf Course during the 2000 Canadian Open.
“For some reason, I kept thinking, this is very similar to what I had at Glen Abbey,” Woods said. “But at Glen Abbey, I wasn’t firing at the flag, either. I was firing at Grant Waite’s ball and was just going to move it to the right, and this was the same thing: Aim at the tunnel, I’m going to lean the shaft to try to take some loft off of it and it’s going to start a little further right, but just rip it.”
His memory might be just what Woods needs to bring himself back up to prominence once again.
Tiger has already hit all the shots, so why not lean on those positive memories going forward. After all, committing to a golf shot is half the battle and when you have a memory bank full of some of the greatest golf shots ever hit, why not use them to propel yourself forward?