Tag:Honda Classic
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:10 am

Rory McIlroy, and the Oakley Experience

Rory McIlroy celebrates both his Honda Classic victory and becoming No. 1 in the world. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from someone with Oakley asking if I’d be interested in heading out to the Honda Classic to check out their new line of apparel, spend some time with a few of their athletes, and, well, hang out “Oakley style.” 

Little did I know that their new line of gear is incredible, the athletes included soon-to-be world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and “Oakley style” basically means “become one of the family,” so I accepted begrudgingly because I’d just spent three weeks traveling outside of the country, and frankly, I was tired.

But the trip was a success mainly because it allowed me to see a few things about the company and their newest star in Rory. 

First off, Rory. You know from his game that he’s a stud, but spending a little time with him, even from an observation deck, made it clear to me that he gets it, unlike a certain someone we media folks have dealt with for years and years. Rory spent time with media members, occasionally opening up his iPhone to show pictures, laughing along with a few of the guys and talking candidly. The few minutes I got to observe McIlroy in the flesh had me convinced that this was his week, and the tournament hadn’t even started yet. 

If you’re in the media in any context you get your chance to be around athletes. Some are quiet and scared of what celebrity-ism brings. Others are loud and fun and enjoy the life of the party, knowing that their life is better than yours and occasionally showing you that with no regret. Then there are people like Rory. The quiet, confident assassin that at just 22-years-old makes you think he’s 30, and with the demeanor and drive to not only be great, but to be historic. Winning in bunches this next decade is going to be tough, because the talent level is very even, but if you had to bet on one player to pull ahead of the rest, and claim four or five wins a year, Rory sure seems like that guy you should go all-in with. He carries that aura and doesn’t mind it. He knows he’s the star in a room full of players. He doesn’t mind holding the torch, no matter the heat. 

And the fact that Oakley signed him makes even more sense after you spend some time with their guys. A confident group by design, the sunglasses speak for themselves (one of the display had us shoot large BBs at the glasses at 140 MPH and they didn’t penetrate which makes you feel a lot more confident when you have friends with the golfing abilities of my bunch), but it is their push into apparel that has everyone excited. The lightest golf shoe in the world. Designs that can go from a calm blue to a rainbow splash on displays right next to each other (and, btw, a golf jacket that comes out soon that has solved that “zip off your sleeves when it’s raining but you’re too warm” annoyance we’ve all encountered on the course). 

Hanging with the boys over 18 holes of golf was, simply, comfortable. They want people to enjoy their products and feel like if McIlroy and others are sporting the stuff it must be the best, but these employees are just as much a part of the Oakley culture as the celebrities they pay seven figures to. 

How was the experience at PGA National? Incredible, but not in a corporate way. It was incredible because it was a group of people inviting you, accepting you, and having a good time with you, occasionally showing you why they are in the golf business to stay but mostly just showing you that the group understands a mantra most don’t; work should be fun, and fun it is. 

A meet-and-greet with McIlroy is a special thing, but standing back and watching how he can light up a room is exciting. 

The kid has “historic” written all over him, and there is a reason the letter “O” is in that word. 

Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:42 pm

Rory and Tiger a smash hit for tour TV ratings

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Once again, the public appetite for Tiger Woods, even 30 months after his last PGA Tour victory, never seems to wane.

Rising star Rory McIlroy did his fair share, too.
With the two leading men trading shots down the stretch on Sunday, the Honda Classic pulled its best overnight rating in a decade, grabbing a 3.2 rating for the final round, where McIlroy held off the charging Woods by two strokes.

The rating is the best for the event's final round since 2002, when Matt Kuchar won the event. McIlroy held on and became the new No. 1 player in the world, withstanding a 62 posted by Woods, the best final-round score of his career.

In all, the network reported a Sunday rating that 78 percent higher than the mark at Honda. which managed a 1.8 overnight for the final round. The broadcast hit high tide with a 4.3 rating as McIlroy in the telecast's final minutes.

With the No. 1 ranking on the line for McIlroy, the reigning U.S. Open champion, NBC earned a 1.9 overnight rating on Saturday, marking the best third-round overnight since '05. NBC sister network Golf Channel averaged 1.04 million viewers for its coverage on Thursday, marking the event's most-viewed opening round ever.

On the ground, Honda officials claimed a 44 percent increase in fans, drawing 162,000 for the week.

Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:14 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Rory McIlroy reacts after his final putt drops at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Rory and Tiger most impressive at closing

A lot of things will be made about what happened on Sunday at the Honda Classic. Tiger Woods’ charge up the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy winning and becoming No. 1 in the world. 

But the thing that impressed me the most? How both were able to finish their rounds. 

So many times pro golfers will play great until the end, see what they are doing, and lose focus. You saw that with Brian Harman on Friday, when a holed bunker shot would have landed him in the 59 club, but instead of making the shot, he hit it three feet and then missed the putt for a 60. Sure, 61 is great, but that focus was lost for a second and a shot was dropped that would have allowed him his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. 

Tiger has been struggling mightily in recent events he was in contention in with actually closing the round. The tournament that comes to mind first was the Masters a year ago, when Tiger made a run early in his round only to struggle on the holes he usually dominates. 

Not this Sunday. Tiger put together a fantastic round in swirling winds, and finished it with a birdie-eagle finish. 

McIlroy was no different. His scrambling and bunker play on Sunday reminded me of Retief Goosen back in 2001 at Southern Hills, but Rory kept missing his golf shots in the right spots, and kept hitting unbelievable chip shots in short range of the cup to give him chances at par, which he converted. 

The comparisons of Tiger and Rory are plentiful after Sunday, but the thing that Woods used to do that separated himself from the pack was play well with a lead, and Rory did just that on Sunday, closing his round out with solid pars when he knew that was all he needed. A less steady McIlroy might have let the Tiger charge ruin him. The new Rory didn’t, and his ability to make the important putts down the stretch allowed him to breeze up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead and an easy run at par and the win. 

A confidence boost week

There are so many names that will be looking back at the Honda Classic with positive thoughts. 

The easy ones are Rory and Tiger, both using this week as a springboard for the rest of the season, but look down the leaderboard and see all the big names that played well at the Champions Course. 

Tom Gillis almost quit golf at one point, but played steady all week, even in the final round, and made a clutch birdie on the last hole to tie for second with Tiger and earn some serious dough he can put towards his 2013 card. 

Lee Westwood was paired with Woods early in the week, and while Tiger always outshines the rest of the field, we shouldn’t forget that Lee fired a final round 63 before Tiger finished to jump 23 spots for a fourth place finish alone. 

And then comes Rickie Fowler. I had a discussion early in the week about the state of Fowler’s game and we decided the kid was regressing and maybe needed a swing change to get to more consistent. 

Maybe I was completely wrong. Rickie shot 66 on Sunday for his first top-10 finish of the season and showed he isn’t completely lost out there. 

The Nationwide Tour’s U.S. Open?

This past weekend, the Nationwide Tour headed to Panama City for an event at the Panama Golf Club, and I’m just going to toss this out there; you might want to avoid that golf course if you want to keep your pride in tact. 

The winning score was 4-under, courtesy of Edward Loar, but he shot a final round 74 to win the event and only six players all week finished in red figures. 

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:45 am

Video: Tiger Woods' entire round of 62

By Shane Bacon

It was his best final round ever and maybe the best round Tiger Woods has ever played when he actually needed to go low, so why not enjoy it once more with the brilliance of Internet TV?

The video below is all the good shots Tiger hit on Sunday on his charge up the leaderboard in hopes of taking down Rory McIlroy. Enjoy the fist-pumps!

Posted on: March 4, 2012 7:27 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 8:46 pm

Woods throws scare into McIlroy, rest of golf

Tiger Woods tips his hat to the crowd after a final round 62. (AP)

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- After a 30-month run of news and blues that was notable almost exclusively for the career worsts that were piling up, Tiger Woods summoned the greatest final round of his career on Sunday.

He might have been the only one who saw it coming.

Woods, after starting the day nine strokes behind 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, mustered dome of his former firepower that fans hadn’t seen since late 2009, shooting an 8-under 62 to finish in a tie for second to the Northern Irishman by two strokes at the Honda Classic.

With two eagles and four birdies, Woods actually trimmed his whopping overnight deficit to a shot as he knocked in an eight-footer for eagle on the 18th, but McIlroy never wavered, taking over the top spot as the new world No. 1.

But just as many eyes were on the former No. 1 as he looked very much like the guy in the red short that amassed 71 PGA Tour wins, including 14 majors. As the cacophony of cheers was blowing up around the back nine of PGA National, nobody could mistake what was happening.

Woods summoned the thunder and joined the back-nine mix for the first time in months at an official event, McIlroy completed his coronation, and with Phil Mickelson off to a tremendous start in 2012 as well, the plot has definitely thickened.

"Regardless of what happens today," former U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell said as the Woods-McIlroy duel was playing out, "this golf season just got a lot more spicy."

Nobody was hotter than Woods, who finally found his putting stroke and pieced together all 14 clubs on the same day. He was within a shot of his all-time best score, 61, which he has recorded three times over the years.

Woods psyched himself up by relating the day's blustery conditions to when he played in Australia three months ago at the Presidents Cup, and scored what proved to be the winning point on the final day.

"I just kept telling myself, I played great in Australia and they are the same kind of conditions," he said. "There's no reason why I can't do it today. Took some pretty good comfort in that."

Caused some pretty good discomfort elsewhere as a result.

McIlroy didn’t much notice, or really care, what Woods was doing until the latter eagled the 18th. AT that point, McIlroy faced an eight-footer on the 13th and answered, restoring a two-shot lead he would not surrender.

It's debatable whether the Woods of a few years ago would have seemed so relieved to have finished in a tie for second, but given the water under the bridge of late, it was a huge step forward. It represents his best finish in a PGA Tour event since he won the BMW Championship on Sept. 9, 2009. He shot 62 in that event, too.

"It feels good, because I felt like I was close," he said, repeating his mantra of earlier in the week. "I've been close to shooting this score, or scores like this, and it was just a matter of time before things all fell into place.

"Maybe I just needed the wind to blow or something like that today to feel comfortable with it."

He blew some brain fuses. In the toughest weather of the week, he came within one of the course record, which had been set earlier in the week. When Woods saw the winds howling in the morning, he figured a 64 would get him in the competitive picture, but then the breeze softened and he had to stomp on the gas.

"I had to change that game plan because the wind was not blowing as hard," he said, "and I knew the guys were not going to back up as much."

McIlroy didn’t back up at all, and while Woods has never been one for moral victories or consolation prizes, this near-miss won’t hurt too badly. He will climb four spots to No. 16 in the world on Monday.

"I think I just need the time," he said. "I switched coaches and I got hurt for most of last year, and I started putting the pieces together. Overall, my finishes have been pretty good since Australia on. It was just a matter of keep building, keep sticking with it, the process is coming, I'm hitting more solid shots, I'm making more putts, my speed is getting back. 

"It's just everything is coming, and I just need to keep progressing, just keep sticking with it, and it's going to turn."

If this was a glimpse of what Woods can summon on a regular basis, then the rest of 2012 ought to be positively dizzying. Knowing he needed an eagle at the last, he nuked a 325-yard drive and hoisted a 5-iron from 205 yards to within eight feet.

This after he'd canned a 25-footer on the 17th for a birdie. It was, at long last, vintage stuff.

"It's great to have Tiger Woods back playing the kind of golf we know he can play, because he's exciting for golf," McDowell said. "Let's all be honest about that. Great to have him back on the leaderboards and we all want to win majors with him in the field.

"It's exciting to be part of golf right now."

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 4, 2012 5:37 pm

Rory McIlroy's world ranking by the numbers

Rory McIlroy walking into the history books at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- In the United Kingdom, they call it a CV, which is shorthand for curriculum vitae.

In the United States, we'd more commonly call it a resume.

By whatever title, when Rory McIlroy officially climbs to the top of the new world rankings issued on Monday, it will be a watershed achievement and yet another juicy item worthy of note on his individual highlight chart.

Here are some fast statistical, biographical and geographical facts about his rapid ascendance:

* Since the ranking was established in 1986, he's the 16th player to climb the ratings mountain, and the second-youngest at 22 years, 9 months and 29 days. 

* Only Tiger Woods, who was 21 years, 5 months and 17 days old when he first reached the pinnacle on June 15, 1997, got to the summit faster. 

* He's parked on a hot seat, to be sure. McIlroy is the fourth different player and fourth European to be ranked No. 1 since England's Lee Westwood supplanted Woods as No. 1 on Oct. 31, 2010. In this particular span, Woods held the position for 281 weeks in succession. 

* Of the 16 players to be ranked No. 1 since the ranking was first formulated, McIlroy is the eighth European and first from Northern Ireland. Only four Americans have topped the list -- Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, David Duval and Woods. 

* With his victory at the Honda Classic, McIlroy nudges aside England's Luke Donald, who held the No. 1 position for 40 weeks, the seventh-highest total number of weeks at the top since the OWGR began. Donald took over on May 29, 2011. 

* His dinner-table chatter just took a turn for the better. McIlroy and his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, have both been ranked No. 1 in their respective fields of battle.
Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:53 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods reminds us he's still here

Tiger Woods swings in the final round of the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

There is golf, and then there is golf that involves Tiger Woods. On Sunday at the Honda Classic, it seemed we’d get the first one, a big golf tournament with a super talented field and the guy trying to take away what is Tiger’s and run with it. People were excited. The week had been great. It was Rory McIlroy’s chance to shine. 

But a funny thing happened internally for Tiger Woods. He decided to be competitive again. And no, I’m not suggesting that Tiger hasn’t wanted to win or hasn’t wanted to get better and hasn’t wanted to be the golfer he once was. His closing finish on Friday showed us that he is still a fiery guy who hates losing and wants to pull off every shot possible, no matter the circumstances.

But after his remarks about McIlroy on Saturday and his Ben Crenshaw-esque reminder that “you never know” when asked about his chances on Sunday, it seemed that something was bothering Tiger and it was time to change it. 

Let us be clear here; one round isn’t going to remake a career. The final round 62 Tiger posted on Sunday was absolutely remarkable for a number of reasons, but it really just reminded us that Tiger Golf, the events that have him in the mix, just feel different. He’s a needle-mover if there has ever been one in professional sports, and when a guy like that goes on a tear like he did at the Champions Course it forces everyone to drop what they’re doing and just stare in awe. My dad called me after Tiger’s putt dropped for eagle on 18, resulting in a double fist-pump by Woods that, frankly, has been missed by golf fans. My sister sent me a text message. I saw messages on Twitter from sports writers that I didn’t even know could spell “golf” before Sunday. 

Tiger Golf is special. It’s fun. It’s energizing. And to think, he did all this with the New Tiger, Mr. McIlroy, in total control of the tournament? Incredible. 

A lot of things happened on Sunday that were different. Tiger started a round and finished it. He made the putts he needed to make, and they weren’t just curling in putts, they were slammed in the back of the hole. He got excited. He was in the round. He was as focused as I’d seen him in ages. 

No, this 62 won’t mean much in a few months if he doesn’t win. Rory is in charge and it will be a special moment in golf for the boy wonder to land the official ranking that we’ve all been unofficially giving him for a couple of years. 

But the fact that it happened was as important to the game as one round could be. Tiger Woods played 18 holes like we all know he can, and it ended in (and I haven’t been able to use this phrase in a long time) typical Tiger fashion. 

Great stuff, Mr. Woods. Great stuff.

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:30 am
Edited on: March 4, 2012 1:10 pm

McIlroy, Honda stalled by thunderstorms

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The golf deities seem to be smiling down on Rory McIlroy, who is poised to take over the No. 1 ranking Sunday if he can hang on to the lead and win the Honda Classic.

The weather gods, not so much.

Even with tee times moved up 3½ hours Sunday because of a bad weather forecast, play was delayed for close to two hours because of thunderstorms caused by a fast-moving cold front.

Play was halted after 70 minutes and only 34 players had completed at least one hole. The winds were expected to gust at around 40 mph during the afternoon, which could make the day a dicey proposition for those chasing McIlroy, who started the final round with a two-shot lead. The leaders eventually went off at about 12:20 p.m.

The tees on the infamous Bear Trap holes, Nos. 15-17, after being moved generously up Saturday, are back at full bore for the final round. The two par-3 holes will play 179 and 186 yards, both over water. 

Play was halted at 9:36 a.m. ET, and after a fairly tame week, conditions were already difficult. Of the 34 players on the course, only two of them are under par for the round.

McIlroy, 22, has won twice in the five instances in which he has started the final round with at least a share of the lead in European and PGA tour competition.

Category: Golf
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