And so Tiger’s reached yet another level of “back.”
It’s been, in the phrase he almost copyrighted, a process. Back playing (remember when that was a serious question?), then back contending, back sticking three or four good rounds together, back winning and now back at world No. 1.
But underpinning everything at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament at Bay Hill, Tiger was back putting like the best player on the planet.
Not how, but how many, runs the truism. Yet both sides of that oft-coined phrase hold the answer to Tiger’s return to the top. FULL POST
Actions speak louder than words. So for Rory McIlroy, a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in his opening event of the 2013 season was far from ideal. The world No.1 was the talk of the sports world at the beginning of the week as Nike Golf announced his arrival as their newest and most significant signing. He is believed to have signed one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports history with figures of $200 million over five years being suggested.
At the heavily stage-managed launch by Nike, McIlory confirmed he was making a wholesale change to Nike products throughout the bag. After an eight-week break since he closed out the 2012 season in stunning style up the road in Dubai, the plan for the new year was all about change. He would be playing a driver, fairway woods, irons, putter and ball, all made by Nike. Except that by Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he had reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for the second round.
It’s a new phase in McIlroy’s life and career. An established professional of five seasons, with so many expectations realized and so much hype justified, the two-time major champion and undisputed world No.1 was ready to move to a new level. Part of this was his long-held dream to become a sporting brand ambassador on a par with the likes of his heroes Tiger Woods, tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and footballer Wayne Rooney of McIlroy's beloved Manchester United.
With the Nike deal signed and no more logos or brands on public display other than the “Swoosh”, McIlroy is in the perfect position to focus all of his attention on his true goals, those of winning major titles and in the short term, gearing up for the Masters at Augusta and the realistic ambition of winning his first green jacket. No longer does he play for money, he has riches beyond his wildest dreams and he’s only 23. All that he lacks are air miles in the competitive sense with his new equipment.
Mcilroy’s performance in this pipe opener for his season in Abu Dhabi was far from satisfactory, but he will take it on the chin. He’s too good not to sort his game out and as his caddy JP Fitzgerald has stated, “he could play with a hockey stick and orange and still win!”
By the sound of it McIlroy’s off-season was far from relaxing. High altitude training and some downtime in Colorado with his girlfriend, the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was followed by trips with her on the tennis circuit to South America.
After a few relaxing days celebrating Christmas at his new home with his parents and the Wozniacki family, he was quickly into some club testing with the Nike gurus at the Bear’s Club in Palm Beach near his Florida home, before flying to Australia to support his girlfriend as she warmed up for the Australian Open.
He returned to Dubai where he began an intensive week-long series of club fitting and testing at the Els Club before driving to Abu Dhabi for a busy few days of hype regarding his launch as the new face of Nike Golf and another distracting day of speculation over the election of a new Ryder Cup captain. One in which he became very much caught up in as a major supporter of Paul McGinley.
McIlory's very public show of support and outward displays of a conviction regarding how the captaincy issue should be dealt with, gave us a glimpse into the strength of mind which he possesses.
He will be smarting at his poor display and missed cut at Abu Dhabi. With four weeks until his next appearance in Arizona at the Accenture World Match Play, we should expect to see a more commanding performance from McIlroy as he truly begins his build-up to Augusta.
This performance was far from perfect and not what Nike will have desired, but at the end of the day there’s only one man that matters and he will be ready to continue his march towards his sporting destiny. The time for talking is over. Let’s see some action Rory. Just do it.
Paul McGinley emerged as the new European Ryder Cup captain after receiving the very public backing of the key members of last September's winning team at Medinah.
Led by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the core group of stars such as Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari made their opinions known after it appeared that Colin Montgomerie might make a surprise return to the role for 2014. FULL POST
As a Brit who followed this year’s Ryder Cup every step of the way – I take immense pride in the European team’s come-from-behind victory. It was a fantastic achievement, but did Jose Maria’s Olazabal’s men win it or did the U.S. blow it?
The Americans were without question the better, hungrier team over the first two days and there will be many who will feel Davis Love III’s players deserved to win back the prestigious trophy.
Events during Sunday’s dramatic final round certainly conspired against them. They simply didn’t get the rub of the green when it mattered most. FULL POST
While both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy fell by the wayside during Sunday's final round at the Tour Championship - on current form there's no doubt which player carries more momentum into the Ryder Cup, and Tiger Woods knows it.
Prior to the Tour Championship, former world No. 1 Woods jokingly called current incumbent McIlroy "the great intimidator".
But during that pre-tournament press conference at East Lake, it appeared Woods was simply not comfortable with even talking about the game's top-ranked player. FULL POST
Two major championship wins at 23 years of age: Rory McIlroy’s validation as a world-class golfer continues to grow and grow.
He has become the sixth youngest multiple major winner in history, and how timely that he pushes Tiger Woods to seventh on that list, eclipsing him by a mere five months.
McIlroy is not targeting Woods' records however and is emphatic when discussing his own potential to carve out a distinguished career: “I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as he had. But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002 and won so many. FULL POST
I'd say American golf has much to be proud of right now, ahead of this week's British Open.
Tiger Woods may have continued his own personal major drought at last month's U.S. Open, and Phil Mickelson looked as far away as ever from winning it, but the stage was cleared for another crop of young talent from the States to shine. And how!
Webb Simpson's triumph was significant not just because at the age of 26 it was his first major, but because it was the third straight grand slam title won by an American player - and in a Ryder Cup year that's one huge boost to team captain Davis Love III. FULL POST
And so it goes on. The era of first-time major winners, the age in which golf's biggest prizes are shared around, the Olympic Club's tendency to favor the underdog and even, in perhaps God's little joke, the trend of deeply religious men winning U.S. Opens in San Francisco.
Webb Simpson did what few others have managed before in a U.S. Open – and what no-one else managed this weekend at Olympic - when he shot a closing pair of 68s to win his first major. He thoroughly earned his elevation - and proved he has the game and temperament to win another.
Whether he does so given this unprecedentedly democratic run of changing champions - 15 different major winners in a row, the last nine of them first-timers - remains to be seen, but for now there's time to enjoy his achievement, and the profile and security it will bring. FULL POST
Golf has just been injected with a breath of fresh air, and it’s taken a dramatic Masters Tournament for the golf world to fully appreciate what it now has on its hands.
Bubba Watson is the new Masters champion. Very few could have predicted that he would have the tenacity to bring this one home, despite recent good form and an outrageous talent to boot.
"Bubba Golf," as he calls it, can only be played by the owner: Booming drives, all played with shape, allied to a hit-it-find-it-and hit-it-again approach. It's very refreshing on the professional golf circuit. He plays the game in a unique way, relying totally on creative shot-making that cannot be taught. FULL POST
It could have been the week the famed Augusta National made history. It could have been the week the club announced its first female member - nearly 80 years since its inception back in late 1932.
Instead, current chairman Billy Payne stuck to his guns and refused to discuss whether tournament sponsor IBM's new CEO Virginia Rometty would be considered for membership just like her four male predecessors.
It was a packed press conference at the National on Wednesday when the chairman gave his annual address to the world's media. I counted maybe five different attempts - including my own - to get Mr. Payne to elaborate further on his stance that the club simply doesn't comment on membership matters. But to no avail. FULL POST