Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:51 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:35 am

Turns out, McIlroy's wired for prime time

Rory McIlroy tees off during his practice round on Tuesday in Miami, Fla. (Getty)

By Steve Elling

DORAL, Fla. -- Lee Westwood ran across Luke Donald on the practice green on Tuesday, and given what they've recently had in common, the pair began a comical exchange about the state of affairs at the top of the game.

Westwood, never one to miss a chance at a good joke, turned to Donald, a fellow Englishman and said. "Good morning, No. 2."

Donald, unseated from the top spot in the world rankings on Sunday by Rory McIlroy, after Donald had had displaced Westwood from the same perch 40 weeks earlier, looked at Westwood and nodded.

"Yeah, it's sort of a bit of a relief," Donald told Westy. "There's only one way to go when you're No. 1. At least there's more than one way to go at No. 2."

At which point, Westwood's quick-quipping caddie, Billy Foster, interjected, "Yeah, No. 5."

Cool as McIlroy is playing it at the moment, it could be a long time before the 22-year-old gets displaced, regardless of the fact that Donald and Westwood can reclaim the top spot with a victory this week at the Cadillac Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

Don’t much like their chances, frankly.

Fresh off a two-day trip to the Big Apple to watch his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, play an exhibition at Madison Square Garden, McIlroy wheeled into Doral late Tuesday afternoon and proved fairly conclusively that he is equipped with all the tools to be the No. 1 -- including the precious gift of poise.

Even after a whirlwind 48-hour span since he became the second-youngest player to reach the top of the world ranking, McIlroy remains as collected as when Tiger Woods threw a career-best closing 62 at him Sunday at the Honda Classic.

He arrived at Doral utterly unruffled, nonplussed and rifling off all the proper missives needed. After years of enduring the rather grumpy sort who occupied the same throne for most of the past decade, in his first public appearance since climbing to No. 1, McIlroy was an impressive study in confidence, self-deprecation, charm and insightful analysis.

That's the public-relations Grand Slam, right there. We're all getting to know the Ulsterman, bit by bit, and the puzzle pieces are impressive. The Northern Irishman has always been open and honest, and he didn’t waste a minute reaffirming that, to the delight of anybody who will read the comments about his career arc, Woods, or the perceived mantel of being a marked man.

For instance, McIlroy didn’t at all mind admitting that having Woods throw everything he had at him at the Honda made it all the better. Well, sort of.

"To be honest, I was probably thinking to myself, 'Could it not have been anyone else?'" he said, drawing huge laughs.

He not only survived, but thrived. If it was the passing of the generational torch, Woods tried to burn down Rory's house first.

"I can sit here and lie and say that it didn't feel better to have Tiger post a score and to be able to play solid," McIlroy said of this two-stroke win. "It maybe made it feel a little sweeter than if it had of been someone else."

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Whoever wrote, "heavy lies the crown," missed the boat with this guy. McIlroy shrugged off the presumed pressure that being the top man on the totem pole carries and said it's all a matter of individual taste and style.

"It depends what type of mind you have and if you thrive in the spotlight, if you welcome it," he said. "I feel like I do thrive in the spotlight, and I like the attention. Not that I'm an attention-seeker, but you're doing something right when you're in the spotlight." 

A modern kid in a highly electronic world, McIlroy is clearly wired the right way. Monday night, Wozniacki waved him onto the court at MSG and he traded a few lobbed volleys with her equally famous exhibition opponent that night, former Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova. A shrinking violet, he isn’t and McIlroy "won" the point, to the delight of the crowd.

Think about it: Everybody's different, but can you envision Woods ever putting himself in a similarly spontaneous situation before thousands of fans and a live TV audience, where he could have looked like a complete clown? Of the foursome that has occupied the No. 1 perch since Woods cavated the throne, McIlroy not only seems best-suited for the long haul, both because of his skillset and age, but the demands of celebrity,

"I'd love to keep myself here for a while," he said. "I know that it's inevitable that I'll lose [the ranking] at some point, that's for sure. I just hope that it's a little further away.

"I don't feel like I'm under any pressure to keep the No. 1, because that's not what I play golf for. It's about winning tournaments, and if I win tournaments, the ranking will take care of itself."

The shock and awe of the achievement are not likely to rattle him, given the company he keeps. He received congratulatory messages from the manager of Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, and the team's star player, Wayne Rooney. Greg Norman checked in, too, just like dozens of others.

They all have hailed the new boy king. Unlike the reign of another No. 1, who shall remain both obvious and nameless, we are not expecting an era of tyranny and oppression from McIlroy, who is anything but suspicious, paranoid or defensive. Indeed, his manner is as refreshing as the Atlantic breezes that buffet the Doral facility.

As his father, Gerry, said last year when McIlroy elected to rejoin the PGA Tour for 2012 against the counsel of his management, "He's his own man."

That's becoming evermore evident, which is remarkable given his age and fast-track climb to top billing. He isn't surrounded by an army of handlers. His swing coach is in Ireland. His caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, eschews the limelight. Nothing seems out of proportion. It's the way McIlroy wants it.

He received mountains of unsolicited feedback after blowing the 54-hole lead at the Masters last spring at age 21, and listened to precious little of it, really.

"I mean, you take it on board; the stuff that you might not think is relevant, you just sort of let it go," he said. "Even if you pick up one or two things that some people might say, you hold on to that and maybe try to put it in practice. 

"Most of the time, I try to figure things out on my own. I think that's the best way to do it."

Judging of his annihilation of the U.S. Open record book two months later, the evidence suggests he's right. The only player to reach world No. 1 quicker was Woods, who climbed the ladder at age 21. Though the comparisons seem premature, if not unfair, plenty of newshole has already been expended comparing the early trajectory of McIlroy to that of the 14-time major winner.

McIlroy handled that ticking time bomb like an adroit professional, too.

"I'm going to let other people make the comparisons," he said. "I've never said that I want to be the next anyone. I just want to be the first Rory McIlroy and however good that turns out to be, then I'll try my best to win tournaments and to win majors and to be best player in the world.

"But it's never like I set out to win 18 majors like Tiger has. I've always just wanted to win golf tournaments, ultimately to win majors, and to be No. 1 in the world. I've been lucky enough to win a major and get to the No. 1 position, but there's still a long road ahead and I feel like I can accomplish a lot more."

You'd have to be catatonic to bet against it. As none other than Jack Nicklaus pointed out, with a major already to his credit, McIlroy is a step ahead of most players. Moreover, McIlroy has already seriously contended at all four majors over his brief pro career.
"I've never let anyone tell me that I was too young to do this or too young to do that," he said. "I felt at some times last year, a lot of things happened to me so quickly in such a short space of time, and it didn't matter if I was 22 or 32.

"I feel like I've handled everything pretty well. I've definitely matured a lot and I've learned a lot in the last couple of years. So everything that's happened to me has been hugely positive and you know, it's nice to be sitting here at 22 and have the No. 1 ranking and to have won a major."

Introspective, easygoing and humble? Hold on, because this could be quite a ride.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:17 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 9:34 am

Trump company completes purchase of Doral

The famous Blue Monster at the Doral Golf and Spa Resort. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Good news if you’re one of the many golf fans that love seeing the Doral Golf and Spa Resort at its absolute best, because the Trump Organization, run by that wacky man with the crazy hair, completed a purchase of four of the five courses on Monday.

Trump bought the resort for a reported $150 million, and plans to spend the next two years renovating the resort to make it, as he says, “the finest resort and golf club in the country.”

Why the purchase? Because Doral was struggling, filing for bankruptcy in February of 2011, and Trump swooped in to help get it back to the great resort it once was.

What does this mean for golf fans? Just that another great staple on our golfing map will once again be in as incredible shape as possible, and continue to attract some of the best golfers in the world for their annual hosting of the CA Championship. 

And honestly, who doesn’t love a little Trump with their golf?

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Category: Golf
Posted on: March 8, 2011 3:13 pm

Casey's match-play funk all about himself

DORAL, Fla. -- Just to set the record straight, world No. 7 Paul Casey was not hopping mad at Aussie Jason Day for the latter's perceived gamesmanship two weeks ago at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Despite at least one online report that flatly suggested as much.

"I was honestly laughing out loud at what was written," Casey said Tuesday at the Cadillac Championship.

In an admitted attempt to make his opponents cringe, Day was making his foes finish even the shortest putts in their matches. Day dispatched Casey in the second round, a notable upset.

Casey said that any outward manifestation of frustration had nothing to do with any of Day's ploys.

"I have played in a lot of matches," said Casey, who won the World Match Play in Europe and is a two-time finaliest at the Accenture. "I have pretty much seen it all. I was mad at myself. I played like crap."

As for the Day ploy, Casey shrugged.

"We putt 'em all out every week," he said.

Casey left the property after the match and hadn't been asked about the match since.
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 8, 2011 2:48 pm

To Westwood, WGC pairings easy as 1-2-3

DORAL, Fla. -- The pairings party at this week's World Golf Championships event didn't exactly make a big impression on former world No. 1 Lee Westwood.

Tournament officials this week clustered players according to the world rankings in threesome over the first two days of the Cadillac Championship at Doral Resort & Spa, which means that Westwood, who dropped to No. 2 eight days ago, will play with top-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany and Luke Donald of England.

Does the horsepower pairing create extra stress or additional zip? He nearly laughed. Maybe for the fans.

"Nothing, not a bit, not anything," Westwood said Tuesday. "You've got to play with somebody, so it might as well be martin and Luke, two friends of mine."

Interestingly, Westwood partnered with both playyers to win points in Europe's Ryder Cup victory last fall in Wales, including a foursomes pairing with Donald that resulted in 6-and-5 drubbing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. Westwood rather humorously recited the score of the latter off the top of his head, without any prompting.

"You won't have to look that one [score] up, then, will you?" he laughed.


Category: Golf
Tags: doral, westwood
Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 1:40 pm

Woody and Lefty to duel again at Doral

DORAL, Fla. -- Six years ago, they staged the most memorable head-to-head shootout of their careers at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa.

This time, they will butt heads for 36 holes, at minimum.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired together in the first two rounds of the Cadillac Championship, which begins Thursday at the gamed TPC Blue Monster.

It marks only the seventh time the two have been paired in the first round.

PGA Tour officials, who this season have begun gerrymandering groupings to increase attention and eyeballs, this week paired players according to their world ranking.

For instance, Nos. 1-2-3, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald also will play together in the first two days at the World Golf Championships event, which has a 69-player field.

Woods and Mickelson, Nos. 5 and 6, will be joined by No. 4 Graeme McDowell.

At the 2005 Doral event, played before a massive crowd and at a fever pitch, Woods held off Mickelson by a stroke after Lefty barely missing a chip-in on the last hole to tie.

Amazingly, because the two are almost always sent off in opposite sides of the draw sheet for television purposes, they have been paired only 26 times over the years and Mickelson of late has put a huge dent on Woods' early nose-to-nose dominance. Each player has beaten the other 11 times, with Mickelson holding a 5-1-1 mark as far as shooting the lowest score in their last seven pairings.

For those curious about Mickelson's stark turnaround, read this: http://www.cbssports.com/golf/story

All-Time Mickelson-Woods pairings on PGA Tour

Year Event                                    Rnd     Phil   Woods
1997 PGA Championship         Rd 4     75        75        TIE
1997 NEC Invitational              Rd 2     72        72        TIE
1997 Tour Championship         Rd 2     72        68        Tiger
1998 Nissan Open                   Rd 1     67        68        Phil
1998 Nissan Open                   Rd 2     76        73        Tiger
1999 U.S. Open Champ.          Rd 3     73        72        Tiger
2000 NEC Invitational              Rd 3     69        67        Tiger
2000 Buick Open                     Rd 3     65        67        Phil
2000 Tour Championship         Rd 1     67        68        Phil
2001 Players Champ.               Rd 3     72        66        Tiger
2001 Masters Tournament        Rd 4     70        68        Tiger
2002 Tour Championship         Rd 1     70        71        Phil
2002 Tour Championship         Rd 4     69        70        Phil
2003 Buick Invitational            Rd 4     72        68        Tiger
2005 Ford Champ. Doral         Rd 4     69        66        Tiger
2006 Ford Champ. Doral         Rd 3     72        68        Tiger
2006 PGA Championship         Rd 1     69        69        TIE
2006 PGA Championship         Rd 2     71        68        Tiger
2007 Deutsche Bank Champ.   Rd 1     70        72        Phil
2007 Deutsche Bank Champ.   Rd 2     64        64        TIE
2007 Deutsche Bank Champ.   Rd 4     66        67        Phil
2008 U.S. Open                      Rd 1     71        72       Phil                  
2008 U.S. Open                      Rd 2     75        68       Tiger
2009 Masters Tournament       Rd 4     67        68       Phil
2009 HSBC Champions *         Rd 4     69        72       Phil
2010 BMW Championship        Rd 4     67        70      Phil

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 14, 2010 2:16 pm

Can I have your Claret Jug?

DORAL, Fla. -- Fans have become a bold bunch, unafraid to lob special requests at players after rounds are completed, and Miami being a town where craziness is communicated in two languages, it's no different at the CA Championship at Doral.

Caddies are frequently picked clean of golf balls and gloves by fans begging for souvenirs, and players usually are happy to comply. Sometimes, the requests for freebies don't stop there.

Witness the funny scene as British Open champ Stewart Cink was working his way down the autograph line outside the Doral scoring center. Here's the verbal play-by-play of what went down as he signed for a group of emboldened kids, who appeared to be between 10-15 years old.

First fan: "Can I have your sunglasses?"

Cink: "I'm sorry, they are too expensive."

Second fan: "Can I have your hat?"

Cink: "Sorry, but I already promised it to somebody else."

Me (interjecting to make a point): "Can I have your Visa card?"

Third fan: "Can I have your wallet?"
Category: Golf
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