Rory Soars, Tiger Roars

Posted: March 6, 2012 by Kodi in Hitting the Greens

Another great PGA Tour event took place at this year’s Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy became the #1 ranked golfer with his win

Tiger Woods showed the world that he can still play like Tiger Woods, just not every round . . .

Over the weekend golf fans were able to see a spectacular tournament take place in Palm Beach, Florida at the Honda Classic. The famous golf course is best known for the “Bear Trap” the 3 hole stretch from 15-17 bares the Golden Bear’s nickname after it was re-designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1990. The Bear Trap is an impressive collection of two par 3’s sandwiching a par 4 but narrow fairways and water surrounding all three holes makes for great golf down the stretch. This tournament had a lot of buzz already as Tiger Woods was in the field as well as the 22 year old Northern Irishmen Rory McIlroy who needed a victory to become #1 in the world golf rankings.

McIlroy was just a few holes away from winning his match play championship against Hunter Mahan last week but ultimately fell just short. This was his next opportunity to snatch that #1 ranking from Luke Donald and Rory came out firing on all cylinders. Rory started the day just 2 shots off the lead that Davis Love III took on Thursday when he shot an opening round 66. McIlroy played with extreme consistency following up that great opening round score with a 2nd round 67 and a 3rd round 66. He was -11 going into Sunday’s final round and once again people were talking about Rory becoming the 2nd youngest player to ever hold the #1 ranking, the youngest of course was Tiger Woods when he captured the #1 ranking in 1997 at the age of 21. McIlroy was up 2 strokes on Harris English and Tom Gillis, his closest competition, and was heading into Sunday with a 9 stroke lead on Tiger Woods.

Rory was in contention at last year’s Honda Classic but he fell victim to the Bear Trap during the 3rd round when he shot double bogey, double bogey, double bogey on 15, 16, and 17. He would go on to finish the Bear Trap +7 for the tournament and knew that he would have to win that battle against those holes this year to win the tournament. Through 3 rounds McIlroy had 15 birdies and 4 bogeys and was -3 at the Bear Trap. On Sunday McIlroy was watching the leaderboard as some names just kept rising and others fell out of the Top 10. Rory was playing conservative golf and through 12 holes he was even for the round but when he heard a loud roar from the 13th green he knew something had happened. That is when McIlroy set up for an 8 foot birdie putt and drained it. That put him at -12 par for the tournament, -1 for the round, and he would finish the round with 5 consecutive pars after that putt.

McIlroy has blown a few putts from inside 5 feet this season but those are clearly mental mistakes as everyone knows that Rory is capable of sinking putt after putt. McIlroy ranks 1st in putts between 5 to 10 feet and 3rd in putts from 10 to 15 feet which is huge when he has hit every green in regulation when he has an approach from 100 to 125 yards. Rory’s putter was great once again at the Honda Classic and it you measured the length of all of his putts from the tournament it is just over 303 feet. That is nearly an unheard of number, as Rory would get the ball close and wouldn’t need many two putts to get the ball in the hole. Rory is a big hitter with great ball striking but he can rely on his putter when he needs to, unless the young man gets into his own head on those extremely short putts. That is why I was so surprised to see McIlroy drain that putt on 13 after a huge roar, it may be the young kid turning the page on his mental lapses.

That roar from the crowd came from the 18th green after Tiger Woods made an incredible second shot to put himself 10 feet away from an Eagle.  Woods was -2 after 54 holes and trailed McIlroy by 9 shots going into the final round. Woods didn’t seem to be playing at a high level shooting 7 bogeys, a double bogey and 11 birdies but his score could have been much lower if his putting was better. Tiger is a solid ball striker but the last few years it has been Woods putter and short game that have let him down. In approaches from 100-125 yards Woods leave his ball on average 24’11” from the hole which ranks 158th on the Tour. His average jumps to 27’7” from approaches between 75-100 yards which ranks 178th and when he leaves himself these long putts he hasn’t been sinking them. He makes just over 7% of his putts between 15 and 20 feet which ranks 151st but his putting overall has been pretty bad. Woods misses nearly 4% of his putts from inside 5 feet and that ranks 70th, while he sinks just 54.5% of his putts between 5 and 10 feet.

Woods was attacking pins in his final round and sinking putts and he showed the world that he is still capable of being Tiger Woods. He eagled the 3rd hole, birdied the 5th and 7th, without a single bogey and was out of the front 9 with a -4 31. A birdie on 11 looked to be the final stand for Tiger but Woods would birdie the final hole of the Bear Trap, setting up the momentum for what took place on 18. Woods would sink his 10 foot eagle putt on 18 and would finish the back 9 with an identical score as the front. He shot a -8 62 in the final round, his best final round score, but he finished the tournament -10 which was only good enough for 2nd place. Woods played like the Tiger of old during the final round but he has yet to string together multiple good rounds in the same tournament. Tiger is capable of playing great but he needs to keep his putter hot and get his approach shots closer to the pin.

Tom Gillis is a 43 year old who turned pro in 1990 but hasn’t had great success in the PGA Tour. He has just 1 career Nationwide win and 1 career International win and this year he has been cut or withdrawn from 4 of his last 5 tournaments. The only tournament that Gillis had finished thus far, was the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach where he was tied for 40th with a -3. Harrison English and Rory McIlroy are just months apart in age but their games are incomparable. English just turned pro last year after a solid Nationwide Tour stint where he won the Children’s Hospital Invitational. Unlike Gillis English has been in the money in all 5 of his tournament’s this season and has placed top 20 in two of them. Many people may have thought that it would be Gillis that fell off the earth and it may be English that challenged Rory on Sunday but that wasn’t the case at all.

Gillis had played great through 3 rounds shooting 11 birdies and just 2 bogeys through 54 holes while English had 5 bogeys and 14 birdies in the same stretch. Both were at -9 and just 2 strokes back of the leader but neither player was able to continue that pace through the final day. Gillis had just 2 bogeys in 3 rounds but by the time he was at the 11th tee he had shot 2 birdies and 3 bogeys. He was +1 through 10 but was able to birdie 11 and 18 to finish with a final round 69 and -10 for the tournament. Harrison English on the other hand had a bad stretch of golf early on like Gillis but unlike the old man English couldn’t shake it off.

Double Bogeys on 2 and 5 followed by a bogey on 7 English was +5 through 7 holes and he had shot as much over par before the finishing the front 9 on Sunday as he had through the previous 54 holes. Birdies on 9 and 10 let English think that he was turning the corner and could salvage something but a double bogey on 11 as well as bogeys on 14 and 16 made sure that wasn’t happening. The young man finished with a +7 77 for the final round and his -2 for the tournament was good enough to be tied for 18th.

 

 

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