Monday, May 23

Rory Snatches Irish Open With Two Flashes of Genius

By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

FAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. RORY MCILROY choked back tears of joy as he produced not one but TWO perfect shots to seal a Dublin Duty Free Irish Open victory for the ages and ONE MILLION EURO for charity.

One behind Scottish warrior Russell Knox with just three holes to go, it looked like a soggy event would end up as a damp squib in front of 25,270 fans at The K Club. Instead, McIlroy hit a heart-stopping, career three wood into the heart of the 16th that set up a birdie that changed the destiny of the title and raised a roar that could be heard from The K Club to Cahirciveen.

As Knox three putted under pressure to go from one ahead to one behind, McIlroy then hit a Roy of the Rovers style five wood to 30 inches at the 18th to set up a tap in eagle three.

In the space of half an hour he went from zero to hero, carding a three under par 69 to win his first Irish Open by three shots from Knox and Welshman Bradley Dredge on nine under par. If Carlsberg are doing any ads about Irish Open climaxes, this one is the template.

Rating the win as high as a World Golf Championship, an emotional McIlroy said: "I don't normally cry over victories but I was trying to hold back the tears on the 18th green, just looking up and seeing all my friends and family and the support I have had this week.

"To win in front of them -- I don’t get a chance to play in front of my him fans that often -- to play like that and finish like that today, I will never forget it."

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

Saturday, May 21

SEC Chart: Phil Mickelson and Alleged Insider Trading

PHIL MICKELSON WASN'T CRIMINALLY CHARGED in an insider trading case that lasted five years. But he doesn't fare as well in the court of public opinion.

From ESPN:
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday alleged that golfer Phil Mickelson made $931,000 after purchasing stock on an insider trading tip from sports gambler Billy Walters and then used some of the money to pay back Walters, to whom he allegedly owed money. 
The SEC on Thursday said Mickelson, who was not criminally charged, has agreed to pay back "all ill-gotten gains," which, including interest, totals $1.03 million.... 
"Simply put, the money Mr. Mickelson made was not his to make," said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC's enforcement division.

Thursday, May 19

Bothered Spieth Leads Jason Day Chase Pack

ONE OF THE THINGS I LIKE about Jordan Spieth is that he's pretty darn transparent. Ask him a question and he answers it, for the most part. He lets you know what he thinks.

Like everyone else, Spieth has been watching and admiring Jason Day on his run of seven victories in his last 17 tournaments. Day now has a firm hold on the World No. 1 ranking. Spieth is No. 2.

Spieth spoke about Day at the AT&T Byron Nelson on Tuesday.

"There's some motivation there," Spieth said. "He's playing his game. He believes his game is better than anybody else's, and he's on his game and so it is better than everybody else's. What he's doing right now, I think I can win the next two events and I'm still not going to surpass him in the world rankings. He's separated himself, and that bothers me and it motivates me."

Spieth missed the cut last week at The Players Championship while Day picked up another big win. The 22-year-old Texan has been struggling after a huge 2015 season during which he won the Masters and U.S. Open and contended in the Open Championship and PGA Championship. Spieth has determined he needs to lighten up a bit, to have more fun on the golf course.

"When I say get back to having fun, I mean it's not like I'm still not going to get frustrated with myself because that's healthy, you should," he said. "If you don't execute a shot that you feel that wasn't that hard to execute, there should be some frustration, but no lingering or negative talk is really what I'm talking about. Just eliminating that."

Hopefully, for Spieth, the home crowd in the Dallas area will spur him on as he tries to regain his form and catch the world's hottest player.

Wednesday, May 18

Golf on TV: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, AT&T Byron Nelson, Regions Tradition, Kingsmill Championship

By Golf Channel Communications


The famed K Club (2006 Ryder Cup) will serve as the venue for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation this week, with World No. 3 Rory McIlroy and reigning Masters champion Danny Willett headlining more than 20 hours of live tournament coverage on Golf Channel. 

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation
Dates: May 19-22                                                                       
Venue: The K Club (Palmer Ryder Cup Course), Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland           

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)
Friday              4:30-8:30 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)

Kjeldsen defends: Soren Kjeldsen defeated Eddie Pepperell and Bernd Wiesberger with a birdie on the first playoff hole for his fourth career European Tour win.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Padraig Harrington, Russell Knox, Martin Kaymer, Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood and David Lingmerth.

* * *


The PGA TOUR shifts to Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson, with World No. 2 and Texas native Jordan Spieth in the field along with Dustin Johnson. 

AT&T Byron Nelson
Dates: May 19-22
Venue: TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club Las Colinas, Irving, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         4-7 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              4-7 p.m. (Live) / 11:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on CBS (Eastern):
Saturday 3-6 p.m.
Sunday 3-6 p.m.

Bowditch defends: Steven Bowditch finished four shots ahead of Charley Hoffman, Scott Pinckney and Jimmy Walker for his second career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Bryson DeChambeau, Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar and Charl Schwartzel.

* * *


The PGA TOUR Champions stages the first of five majors in 2016 this week with the Regions Tradition in Alabama, the first of three majors over the next four weeks.

Regions Tradition
Dates: May 19-22
Venue: Greystone Golf & Country Club (Founders Course), Birmingham, Ala.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1-3:30 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Friday replay)
Friday              1-3:30 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-5 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          5-7 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            5-7 p.m. (Live) / 2:30-4:30 a.m. (Monday replay)

Maggert defends: Jeff Maggert outlasted Kevin Sutherland with a par on the first playoff hole for his second career PGA TOUR Champions win, and first major.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Kenny Perry, Jesper Parnevik, Mark O’Meara, Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Jeff Maggert and Lee Janzen.

* * *


The LPGA Tour is in Virginia for the Kingsmill Championship, featuring the return of the top-3 players in the world  -- Lydia Ko (1), Inbee Park (2) and Lexi Thompson (3) -- after extended breaks and will be grouped together for the first two rounds. 

Kingsmill Championship
Dates: May 19-22                                                                       
Venue: Kingsmill Resort (River Course), Williamsburg, Va.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         9-11 p.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Friday              9-11 p.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Live Extra)
Saturday          3-5 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-5 p.m. (Live)

Lee defends: Minjee Lee finished two shots ahead of So Yeon Ryu for her first LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Brooke Henderson, Sei Young Kim, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Lincicome.

Tuesday, May 17

RIP Irish Golf Legend Christy O'Connor Sr.

HALL OF FAMER AND IRISHMAN Christy O'Connor Sr. died over the weekend at the age of 91. O'Connor played on 10 Ryder Cup teams and "won more than 20 important British and Irish tournaments," said the Irish Independent.

Billy Casper lavished praise on O'Connor when I interviewed him for my book about the 1969 Ryder Cup.

"Christy could do more with a 4-wood out of the rough than any man I've ever seen," Casper said.

Irish golf writer Brian Keogh wrote this about O'Connor:
The death at 91 of Christy O'Connor Snr in the small hours of Saturday morning marks the end of an era in world golf and the loss to Ireland of one of its greatest ever sportsmen. 
While he never attained the major championship glory that has come to so many of the modern Irish players from Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke to Graeme McDowell, his achievements were ever bit as great and he leaves a huge mark on the history of the Irish and the world game. 
He was also a modest man. 
"I still can't believe it, and I really in my heart, I am a gentleman and I am absolutely stumped for words," he said at Baltray in 2009 when he gave a press conference to mark the news that he had been voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Read Keogh's complete remembrance of O'Connor.

And from my book, a snapshot of O'Connor in the fall of '69:
O'Connor, 44, the oldest player on either [Ryder Cup] team and the lone Irishman, was continuing a Ryder Cup run that began in 1955 at Thunderbird Ranch & Country Club in Palm Springs. He and Peter Alliss were the most seasoned Ryder Cup Players on the British side....O'Connor was regarded as one of the game's best bad-weather players; despite his advanced age, he was still a force in 1969. Although winless [that season], the Irishman was a serious contender at the British Open after a record-breaking 65 in the second round. He finished fifth. Royal Birkdale would be welcome ground for O'Connor, where in 1968 he won the Alcan International.

Monday, May 16

Separation at the Top: Jason Day Adds Players to Win List

WITH HIS WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY at The Players Championship, Jason Day has won seven of his last 17 starts and solidified his position as the top-ranked golfer in the world. But, if you listen to the 28-year-old Aussie, you realize he's not entirely satisfied and that he won't rest on his laurels.

"I just wanted to win this so bad," Day told Golf Channel's Steve Sands. "I'm very motivated to stay at No. 1. This definitely gives me that extension on the gap between 1 and 2 and I'm very pleased with how everything has been progressing this year. But the year's not over, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."

Day opened with a record-tying 63 and closed with a 1-under 71 to finish at 15-under par, winning his 10th PGA Tour title by 4 shots. He didn't always have his best stuff, but he did have plenty of grit and determination, which he needed on Sunday.

"I was really nervous on the front side and it showed," he said. "And then coming and playing the way I did on the back side, just really bearing down and knuckling down… I’m going to hold this memory for a long time."

Fifth major or not (and I say not), The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass is a tough week with a great field. Day and others like Rickie Fowler add an important accomplishment to their golf resume when they emerge victorious at Ponte Vedra Beach.

"This championship is a bit of a gauntlet for everybody," said NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller. "It really is the ultimate pressure test."

Day has now passed that test on the Pete Dye horror chamber that some have said is not particularly well suited for his power game. With his putting sharp and confidence as high as his world ranking, Day looks ready for punishing Oakmont. The U.S. Open is just a month away.

Friday, May 13

A Mother's Love and Jason Day

WITH JASON DAY CONTENDING AT the Players Championship, I'm pointing you to a Karen Crouse feature story on Day that published ahead of the Masters in the New York Times. Consider it a belated Mother's Day tale. (No pun intended.)

Jason Day is leading the Players Championship.
(Keith Allison)
Day's background and journey to world No. 1 in golf are astonishing, no matter how many times I read about it. And Crouse is a wonderful sportswriter.

Here's the opening of "Jason Day's Long Rise to No. 1 Began With a Mother's Save":
BRISBANE, Australia — Jason Day’s rise to No. 1 in the world began with a rusted golf club retrieved from a Queensland junkyard. 
His mother worried that if not for golf, Day would end up like his father, Alvyn, whose potential was corroded by alcohol. Alvyn Day’s drinking left a scrap heap for Day, his mother and his sisters to sift through. It would take them years to see the beauty that can sprout from the rubble like a red poppy pointing toward the sun.... 
"With everything that went on, for me and my sisters to come out pretty normal on the other side, I think a lot of that has to do with our mom," Day said. 
From his father, Day, 28, learned to play golf and fear failure. From his mother, he learned how to work as if failure were not an option.

Thursday, May 12

Jason Day Leads Players After Record-Tying 63

ABOVE: John Swantek and Kelly Hawkins take an in-depth look at the field teeing it up at the 2016 PLAYERS Championship.

THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP IS UNDER WAY at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Thus far, the scoring is low, low, low. 

Jason Day fired a record-tying 63 in his opening round to take the early lead. Justin Rose and Bill Haas are part of a group that shot 65. Ernie Els is one of several players with a 6-under 66. Phil Mickelson had 70. Jordan Spieth carded an even-par 72, which included a double bogey 7 on his last hole. The first round is still in progress.

Of course, scoring conditions will toughen. There's a long way to go.