Great Stuff at The Open Championship

July 21st, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

As it should The Open Championship dominated the golf pages, both electronic and print around the world with so many wonderful pieces by numerous scribes. Here are some great reads. Take some time to check them out.

In Doug Ferguson’s game story he says Rory and his game are back in a big way: 

In another major lacking tension over the final hour, what brought The Open to life was the potential of its champion.

After nearly two years of turmoil, McIlroy looked like the kid who shattered scoring records to win the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, and who won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record eight shots a year later.  The Boy Wonder is back. Or maybe he’s just getting started again.rory family

Karl MacKinty of the Independent brags of the recent Irish dominance at The Open and says this is a “new “Rory:

The ‘new’ Rory McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug at Hoylake and became Ireland’s fourth winner of the British Open, golf’s oldest and greatest Major, in eight glorious years.

McIlroy remains outrageously gifted. Yet over four days at Royal Liverpool, the 2014 Open Champion gave a performance of greater depth, serenity and substance than the uninhibited, tousle-haired ‘kid’ who ripped up the Major Championship record books at the 2010 US Open and the 2012 US PGA. 

Of course, he is still his mother’s son. Very much so! McIlroy revealed he was afraid even to look in Rosie’s direction as she stood by the 18th green for fear he might burst into tears before putting-out for par and the 71 that sealed his two-shot victory at the British Open. 

Christopher Clarey of the New York Times says Rory is ready for the next step: 

McIlroy may never match the breadth and depth of Nicklaus’s and Woods’s achievements; this is an era brimming with global talent in which domination has proved elusive. But McIlroy made his intentions clear on Sunday. 

“Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and try,” he said. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.” 

McIlroy is clearly a better and more resilient player at this stage of his career, if not yet a consistently brilliant one.

Geoff Shackelford tells us that Rickie Fowler still sees plenty of life in Tiger and Phil:

As Rickie Fowler was walking beside Rory McIlroy up the 18th hole Sunday at the British Open, the tournament’s final group playing the final hole, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were flying over the Atlantic after frustrating weeks. That could lead many to think the torch has been passed to a new generation. Not so says British Open runner-up.  

“I don’t see Tiger and Phil and some of those guys running off anywhere,” Fowler commented after the round. “We’re ready to go to battle against them, though.”  

James Riach says that Sergio Garcia can take away some positives from his Open performance: 

“It was close, it was close,” said García. “At least I’m proud of the way I played. I wanted to at least make him [McIlroy] feel a little bit and see how he would respond. He obviously responded well. I got within two but every time I got closer he kept making one birdie and not letting me get any closer than that. Overall I thought it was a great week. 

“Everybody looks at you as second and they want to make it a negative. Not at all. I felt like I played well, I felt like I did almost everything I could. There was a better player, it’s as simple as that. You don’t have to look at other things, it’s just that simple.”

And here is a great slideshow from Golf.com of the best pictures from Royal Liverpool.

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Its Rory’s World

July 21st, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Rory McIlroy sat in the locker room at Royal Liverpool spying his name on the Claret Jug just below that of Phil Mickelson. And when he looked further he saw Tiger Woods’ name in three spots and the names of all the greats that have survived and won the Open Championship.

But while he appreciated the past winners this was a day to live in the present and look to his future. And the future for Rory is more than bright, it’s brilliant.

rory claret jug

McIlroy’s third major championship leaves him just a Masters victory short of the career grand slam. Immortals Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only golfers to achieve that at a younger age than the 25 year old Rory and that is the rarest of company.

We’ve heard the cry of a youth movement before. Somewhere there was going to be the next golfer to take over the game. And when Rory came on to the scene and won in Dubai in 2009 he was crowned as the next Tiger. Even Tiger’s good friend Mark O’Meara compared Rory’s game to the 14 time major winner.

It didn’t take Rory long to start racking up majors but first he had to blow one. After self destructing at the 2011 Masters he came back to blow away the field at the U.S. Open and he did the same the following year at the 2012 PGA Championship.

With this Open Championship he now has three majors and he will move to second in the world rankings. He puts to rest any debate who is the best young golfer in the world. Adam Scott may have the top spot but it won’t be long before Rory is back at the top.

Rory’s game was in full bloom at Hoylake yesterday and when his game is on no one can touch him. The Tiger Woods of 2000 had a game so great, so much better than his competitors he won the U.S. Open by fifteen strokes…fifteen strokes.

I would venture to say that when Rory’s game is on as it was this week at Liverpool only a circa 2000 Tiger Woods could catch him. As we have seen recently Woods’ game is nowhere rory selfienear his best ever.

The tide has changed in golf with Tiger and Phil and Ernie being upstaged by Adam and Martin and Rory.

The likable Northern Irishman knows where he stands in the history of golf and can’t wait for the next step. “I’m immensely proud of myself,” McIlroy said. “To sit here, 25 years of age, and win my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam … yeah, I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly.”

“I just want to be the best golfer that I can be,” McIlroy added. “I know if I can do that, then trophies like this are within my capability.”

His career is back on track and on a historic trajectory and he’s up for the challenge.”I’d love to win a lot more of them and, even though there’s one left this year that I desperately want to try and win, I’m looking forward to next April and trying to complete the career Grand Slam.”

So now, much like Phil Mickelson had done with the U.S. Open, Rory has set his sights and his focus on that one particular major that has eluded him. He’s 25 with three majors and another probable 20 years of attempts at The Masters. I think its money in the bank.

It’s Rory’s world and we are lucky to be living in it.

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Chip Shots from the Open Championship

July 20th, 2014 1 comment

by Jeff Skinnerrory claret jug

Rory McIlroy: three quarters of the way to the career grand slam. Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have reached that point any quicker than Rory. That tells you what kind of company this kid is in.

Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia did just about all they could to pressure Rory. They needed some help from Rory but he wasn’t in a cooperative mood. When he needed to he made all the shots he had to. It was his Open for sure.

The look on Rory’s face when they introduced him as “Champion Golfer of the Year” said it all.  He cherishes this major like no other.

If you notice there was no Beatle music played all week on ESPN. A bit odd considering the Beatles were Liverpool’s most famous citizens. The issue was money. Supposedly the Michael Jackson estate that owns the Beatles Library wanted serious bucks, like half a million to release any tunes to ESPN. That’s just crazy money.

Just in case you haven’t heard Caroline Wozniacki wins in Turkey on the same day Rory wins the Open. I guess we call that ironic.

Talk about having confidence in your kid. Rory’s dad, Gerry and three friends put down $700 on Rory about ten years ago. The bet: Rory will win the Open before he was 26. The odds? 500-1. Gerry and the boys stand to cash in for about $340,000. Now that’s believing in your kid.

sergio n rickie plates2Surprisingly David Howell shoots 68 to finish T15 and finishes as Low Englishman at the Open. I bet he wasn’t on anyone’s radar going in.

We had heard that the wind and the bunkers were Royal Liverpool’s main defense. But with little wind the bunkers were left to challenge the pros. Those bunkers gather in shots that came within five yards of them. The only thing that impressed me more about the depth and difficulty of those bunkers was the amazing skills the pros displayed when they got out of them. That is some serious game.

Three cheers for Robert Karlsson who two years ago pulled out of the Open because of a case of the “Full Swing Yips.” He couldn’t even pull the club back to start a swing. He shot 69 today and finished T12. Bravo Robert.

I may be a bit too old school but what is it with that neon stuff those players were wearing all week. Nike had Rory and Tiger with plenty of neon pink, red and yellow. Puma had Rickie rocking the neon too. For me it’s a bit much. Bright I can handle but neon? Not my cup of tea.

Four players all shot 65 today to tie the course record. Shane Lowry, Chris Wood, Marc Leishman and Jim Furyk. That’s great shooting but all were way too far off the lead to have any chance at catching Rory.

Everyone wanted some drama on Sunday and Rory accommodated, well a little bit anyway. But I will say this: It’s amazing to watch a player play so well. I saw it with Martin Kaymer sergio matador 2at the U.S. Open and this week with Rory. A pro playing with all aspects of his game under control is a beautiful thing to watch.

Sergio Garcia’s welcome by the fans as he walked up eighteen today was heartwarming. I think it’s their way of saying they approve of the New Sergio and find him an easy player to cheer for now. It wasn’t always that way. Sergio was gracious in his acknowledgement of the fans show of affection.

Speaking of that walk up eighteen they say those stands hold over 7,000 fans. That’s some stadium effect and has to really get to those players.

Tom Watson got a great sendoff by the fans as he birdied the last to shoot 68 and finish T51. Tom’s career at the Open: 37 Opens, 15 top 25’s, 11 missed cuts, 5 wins and the most heartbreaking playoff loss in Open history. In Scotland they call him “Our Tom.” Enough said.

You know Tiger Woods is upset at his finish, 69th and 23 strokes off Rory’s winning total. But do you think it bothers him that his 64 year old (potential) Ryder Cup Captain whipped his ass this week?

Watching the three main combatants today was wonderful. Rory, Rickie and Sergio all represented the Open and the game well. The level of play was high and the mutual respect each player had for the others was impressive. Simply put, it was a great day for golf.

 

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Rory McIlroy Wins Open Championship On a Great Day for Golf

July 20th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Open-Championship-FlagsRory McIlroy is the Champion Golfer of the Year and a grand champion he is. His final eighteen holes around Royal Liverpool wasn’t a coronation or a victory lap as many had proposed. The day certainly had its share of drama as Rory was nearly chased down by Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.

Playing with a big lead on the final day of a major championship isn’t as easy as one may think. Sergio (66) and Rickie (67) did all they could to try and over take Rory but his lead was too great. Rory’s one under 71 was more than enough to claim his third major championship.

When he needed to hit a fairway he did. When he needed to hit a recovery shot he did. And when he needed to sink a putt he did. Rory looked calm and collected all day even when he hit the rare wayward shot.

Rory goes by the nickname “Rors” and is called the “Celtic Tiger” by the Irish press but today he earned the moniker “BMW” as in he is the Ultimate Driving Machine. He drove it far and true and used his big stick to capture his most beloved major.

With Rory and Rickie and Sergio trading shots all day it seemed like a prize fight had broken out at Hoylake. We were treated to a wonderful display of golf by a trio of golfers that are as likable as any in the game.  Rory Kiss

Rickie who finished tied for second in his second straight major is so very easy to like. He’s colorful, honest, fun loving and plays a great game. Beneath that “now generation” flat brim lies an old soul who plays an old school game. He respects the game and everything that goes with being a celebrity.

A few years ago it was difficult to like the Sergio that whined about his poor luck and griped about anything that crept under his thin skin. But now, Sergio is a different golfer and a different man. The whole Tiger/Fried chicken fiasco caused a bit of upheaval in Sergio’s life. And I believe he is a better man for it. He came out of that with a new perspective and has finally matured into a more responsible and accommodating person. It’s easy to cheer for someone who has come out of a difficult time and the fans at Hoylake showed Sergio plenty of love. He returned that in spades with his salute and kisses to the crowd on eighteen.

Rory has been a fan and media favorite from the first time his floppy curls teed it up. Even though he has had some difficulties on and off the course recently Rory has kept his composure for the most part. There was that walk off “tooth ache” episode but we have to remember that he and Rickie are still kids. That being said, Rory is loved worldwide and he himself admits to growing up a lot recently. Living a life in a fishbowl isn’t easy even if it is by choice. Rory is just a very likable guy. He likes to have fun is always candid and embraces his millions of fans. There weren’t many fans rooting against Rory today. He has them all in the palm of his Open Champion hands.

For my money that is what made today’s final round so captivating. We had three appealing players that respected one another and are actually friends going at it in a big way. We cheered for each as they made great shots and felt the pain when they hit a poor one.

This Open Championship may have been all about Rory’s wire to wire win but to me it was so much more. These three guys put on a great show today. There was skilled golf, honest camaraderie and true respect for each other.

Rory leads a generation of twenty-somethings whose time is now. The game couldn’t have a brighter future.

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The Open Championship & Ian McShane: “Cavern Club”

July 19th, 2014 No comments

Rory & Rickie…”Back In the Day”

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Rory McIlroy has a six shot lead over Rickie Fowler at the Open Championship and the two will share the day together tomorrow in the final group.

It would have been a bit more interesting if Rory hadn’t unleashed his pet eagle over the last few holes today. But the two very popular and still very young players should have plenty of fun together.

The two do have a bit of history together. They faced off back in 2007 in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down. The U.S. took the competition 12½ to 11½ with Rickie and Billy Horschel defeating Rory and Jonathan Caldwell in a foursomes match.

Here’s a blast from the past. Both have since spent many days in the gym and at least a few at the barber since then.  What do you think..maybe the teams could have used a tailor.

rory and rickie walker cup 07

 

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Thinking Out Loud at The Open Championship

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugFor awhile there I thought we had a battle of The Young Guns brewing. It turned into an exhibition of The One Gun. Rory was magnificent.

Dustin Johnson was true to his major championship form again today. But instead of one big blow up hole he spread it over three straight birdies to take him out of the mix.  darren clarke 14 open

Rory’s buddy Darren Clarke shoots low round of the day with Jordan Spieth both with a five under 67. See what losing fifty pounds can do for a golfer.

The Open Championship has succumbed to technology. Cell phones have been there for awhile but now they have those digital scoreboards all around the course. It’s a great move. Maybe the USGA will take notice.

I, like many were disappointed by the two tee start. It was the first time ever at the Open and the right thing to do. Safety of the fans and the golfers had to be considered. And an additional benefit is I can get on the course a few hours earlier.

The line of the day. Judy Rankin calling notoriously slow Jim Furyk’s putt, “He wasted little time with this one.” Curtis Strange shot back, “That’ so unlike Jim Furyk.”

rickie fowler 14 openIs Royal Liverpool near Sherwood Forest? I thought I saw Robin Hood out there…or was that Rickie Fowler.

Fowler will be in the final group of a major for the second straight time. Tied for second at Pinehurst and tied for fifth at Augusta. Butch Harmon is the god of swing coaches.

One side effect of the early start is that I couldn’t get my Guinness on so early. Oh well, I’ll make up for it later.

With no wind at Liverpool the old girl has been defenseless, except for those “vacuum cleaner bunkers.” Vacuum cleaner because they seem to just suck the ball right in.

Someone at ESPN or the BBC or Skysports, whoever was calling the shots deserves some credit for actually not showing Tiger Woods all morning.

Tom Watson isn’t threatening for the lead but the 64 year old icon has amazed us by being around for the weekend. It’s not links golf or the Open without Watson. Maybe there’s still a bit of magic left in him for next year at St. Andrews.

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Rory McIlroy & The Big Tease

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugRory McIlroy is a big tease. He played with us and Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia and everyone else who teed it up or watched The Open Championship from their couch.

Rory started with a four stroke lead and the chatter was that it will be another run away win for the young man from Northern Ireland. He was going to streak out to a bigger lead and get another step closer to his third major victory.

But a bogey at the first and a lackluster front nine of even par actually had Rory backing up to the field. Even though the weather was predicted to be mean Royal Liverpool’s lack of wind allowed the course to be taken once again today.

While Rory was treading water his competitors were making a charge at him. Fowler opened with four birds in six holes. Garcia shot a front nine of 32, three under par and started the back with three straight birdies. Victor Dubuisson had four birdies in five holes on the front nine.

When Rory followed his birdie at eleven with a bogey at twelve he had fallen into a tie for the lead with Fowler, the field was back in it and the game was on, but not for long.

As Rory failed to get any further into red numbers I began to wonder if we could actually call an even par round a meltdown. But Rory soon extinguished any need for that thought. rory open 14 3rd

It appeared that Rory needed some time to warm up because he started to put the heat on mid-way through the back nine. He sank a monster birdie putt at fourteen then eagled sixteen. During that run Fowler had stumbled with three bogeys in four holes and Garcia was stuck in neutral. And Rory, the big tease was easily back in the lead.

A hiccup of a bogey at the seventeenth still had him with a five stroke lead over Fowler but the best part of the Rory Show was yet to come. He killed a drive (340 yds) to the center of the par five eighteenth fairway and fired a laser of a five iron (237 yds) to the green leaving him a makeable eagle putt.

As calmly as we had seen him all day he stroked it dead center and he was in the house with a six shot lead. Two eagles in three holes with shots few professionals could make had our heads spinning at what just happened.

Needless to say I think Rory is over that equipment change and that breakup and that lawsuit and all the rest of the stuff that has been holding him back.

He was candid about what waits for him Sunday. “A lot to play for tomorrow. It’s a huge day for my career. I feel like I am up to the task.”

He knows what a win here would mean, “An awful lot at stake …first Open Championship. Three quarters of the way to the career Grand Slam. That would be nice going into Augusta next year.”

Yes, it would but he has one more round of links golf left. But I don’t think he’ll be teasing anyone tomorrow. This one is in the books.

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Dan Jenkins Stays Home, Eats BBQ, Breaks Streak

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

History is made at every major championship. This week at the Open Championship a bit of history came to an end. A streak that may never be broken ended as the dean of sportswriters, Dan Jenkins was absent from the Open Championship.

Jenkins had been to every Open Championship for the past 45 years. It started at the 1969 Open Championship and he had been to everyone since.

His string of consecutive majors ended at 179…that’s 179 majors! We are talking 45 years of majors! Will any writer, will anyone ever come close to that.

His streak of 179 came to an end at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst.  I happened to be in the Media Center at Pinehurst when Jenkins was spending some time with the USGA’s video crew. I snapped this shot of him as they got ready. 

Mike O’Malley pays tribute to his friend and gives us the facts on Jenkins’s record. 

The apple didn’t fall far from the Jenkins Tree. Here is a column from the Washington Post by his sportswriter daughter, Sally Jenkins.  

The British Open is better in Texas because you can watch it with barbecue. This is how my father has consoled himself while missing his first golf major championship in 45 years. jenkinsIt seems his doctor felt the bracing air of northwest England might not be good for him, but the medical community said nothing about smokehouse ribs. The fact that Dan Jenkins, 84, stayed home from the British constitutes not just a concession, but some kind of historical event, because the last time he was absent from a major the club heads were made of persimmon, and not every Tour wife was a blonde.

Forty-five straight British Opens is a lot of trips to the firths and forths, a lot of gorse and whin under the quaint old footbridges. My father had covered the past 179 majors consecutively for either Golf Digest or Sports Illustrated, and overall he has witnessed 222 majors (counting one he saw as a kid in 1941), a feat that helped put him in the World Golf Hall of Fame.   

So you can see how he might be a little sentimental about breaking his streak, and skipping a tournament that has always been equal part pleasure and discomfort. “I’ll be tweeting Hoylake from Fort Worth, where we have reliable plumbing, bath towels bigger than a wash cloth, and food I can identify,” he told his more than 41,000 followers on Twitter.
Instead we’re doing our best to simulate the experience of golf on the links of Hoylake inside the family home. On Thursday morning we rose at 3 a.m. central time to watch the telecast from overseas. I staggered into the living room, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, to find him sitting upright in a chair, wearing a heavy windbreaker and black cashmere Ben Hogan golf cap. My brother explained, “It’s his game face. Like the guy who wears the Eagles jersey in front of the TV.” 

It’s a bit sad to see such an amazing run come to an end. There are few men with the wit of Jenkins and even fewer that could stay at the top of their game for so long.

Click here for Sally’s full column it’s a must read. 

Click here for The Ancient Twitterer’s Twitter feed and get ready to laugh like hell. He is absolutely hysterical.

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The Open Championship & Ian McShane: “Jackets”

July 18th, 2014 No comments