From the Rough

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Archive for April 7th, 2011

Is Rory McIlroy teasing us with his opening round?

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If Rory’s McIlroy’s round on Thursday’s gave you a feeling of deja vu, don’t worry, you weren’t the only one feeling that way. Bombed drives. Perfectly placed irons shots. Precision putting. If you showed someone McIlroy’s round but didn’t let them see the course he was playing, you could have sworn you were watching a replay of his opening round at last year’s British Open, where the Ulsterman, for one day, turned St. Andrews into his personal playground with a record-tying 63.

McIlroy almost did the exact same thing on Thursday at Augusta National, missing Greg Norman’s 1996 opening round record of 63 by a couple of shots. While there were a lot of comparisons between the two rounds (calm conditions, easy pins, etc.), you can be sure McIlroy hopes the comparisons end there.

Under blustery conditions on Friday at St. Andrews, McIlroy shot himself out of contention with an 80, washing away a great chance to be in contention on the weekend. While some people said the tournament was a warning shot to the rest of the golf world that McIlroy was close, others still questioned if he could put it together for four rounds in a major championship.

Less than nine months after that collapse, we’re about to find out. Riding a hot putter and some precision iron play — there’s that phrase again — McIlroy fired an opening round 65 to tie for the lead at the Masters with Alvaro Quiros. And while people were generally excited to see the new guard at the top of the leader board, there was a large contingent that wondered if this was just another Rory tease.

McIlroy definitely has the talent — we saw it on display at Quail Hollow — but so far, it hasn’t translated to major championship success. The good thing for the 21-year-old Ulsterman is that Augusta National will play nowhere near as difficult as St. Andrews. With another perfect day in the forecast, he’ll have a chance to prove if he can follow up brilliance with a round that keeps him in contention.

Nobody’s asking him to go out and shoot 7-under again tomorrow, but if McIlroy wants to get the detractors off his back, he’d do well to shoot a respectable number tomorrow and go into the weekend at or near the top of the leader board.

Written by Jonathan Wall

04/07/2011 at 9:42 pm

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Padraig Harrington’s neck could keep up from making cut

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Padraig Harrington was finally rounding the corner. After spending the better part of his offseason working on every swing tweak under the sun, it looked like things were coming together for the three-time major champion. He posted a T-8 last week’s at the Shell Houston, and he even found a way to finish in the top-10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship a couple weeks prior.

Ladies and gentleman, Padraig Harrington was primed to tackle Augusta this year. His recent form at Augusta, while mixed, led some to believe he was the perfect darkhorse for this week … a streaky player who could put together four brilliant rounds in the blink of an eye. He’d done it before, so how hard it would it be to recreate some of his major championship magic at the Masters?

After Thursday, the answer to that question is “very difficult.” But it had nothing to do with Harrington’s play on the course; instead, it had everything to do with Harrington’s neck. As Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk noted, Harrington wrenched it during his warm-up session, thereby forcing him to play Thursday’s round with the injury.

The injury was so bad, in fact, that Harrington was unable to align himself properly on the greens. “I nearly pulled out before I started,” Harrington said. “I haven’t even come close to swinging the club. I was wondering if I should pull out, but I wouldn’t. That’s just my nature. I would always have a go. But it wasn’t much fun.

“I was swinging the left‑handed shot, just warming up and it just kind of clicked and I’m not able to move to my right. Such is life.”

You have to feel bad for Harrington, a guy who already suffered a terrible fate earlier this season when he was DQ’d in Abu Dhabi for a rules violation that was called in by a viewer. The USGA and R&A’s just happened to announce earlier this morning that they’re changing the DQ rules, a move that would have allowed the Irishman, who was in contention, to take a penalty and remain in the tournament.

Who knows, maybe Harrington heard the news on the range, whipped his neck around to see if it was true, and wrenched the darn thing in the process. Considering his bad luck this season, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Written by Jonathan Wall

04/07/2011 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized