5 Things: McIlroy resents Olympics and Spieth returns to Augusta
1) Forget Zika, McIlroy resents Olympics
When Rory McIlroy withdrew form the Olympics he said it was down to the Zika virus. Now he has revealed that he resents the Games for making him choose which country to play for.
A statement last June, which not many probably bought into, said: “My health and my family’s health comes before everything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.”
Now, in a fascinatingly open and honest interview with the Sunday Independent, he admitted that he was wholly uncomfortable with representing a particular country – had he taken part he would have played for Ireland rather than Great Britain.
“Not everyone is driven by nationalism and patriotism,” McIlroy explained. The 27-year-old, who grew up in County Down, identifies himself as Northern Irish rather than British or Irish which made his decision a particularly tough one.
“All of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most?” he said. “I started to resent it and I do. I resent the Olympics Games because of the position it put me in, that’s my feelings towards it, and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”
McIlroy went on to reveal that, in a text exchange with the gold medal winner Justin Rose, the Englishman asked if he thought he had made the wrong decision in not playing.
“I said: ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.’
“I don’t know the words to either of them; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.”
2) Spieth back at Augusta.. and birdies 12th hole… twice
It might not have been the final round of the Masters but Jordan Spieth has been back to Augusta National, has played the 12th hole (twice) and birdied it both times.
Each December the 2015 champion goes back to Georgia with friends and sponsors and, needless to say after his quadruple-bogey seven there in April when leading the Masters by a country mile, there was some added interest when Spieth climbed aboard the tee at Golden Bell.
“Guys, we have some demons to get rid of here, I’d appreciate if y’all stood to the side of the tee box while I do my work here. That was cool.”
And, instead of the pair of water balls that helped let in Danny Willett, he hit an 8-iron to 15 feet.
“I was very nervous when I got on 12 tee. The greens were a little slower, and I left a lot of putts short,” the 23-year-old said. “I was pumped to hit the green, and then I hit my putt and it just about stopped short on the front lip and fell in for two. I probably gave like a big fist pump. I was walking around with my hands up, like ‘demon’s gone.’”
One of the first people he called afterwards was his trusty caddy, Mike Greller, to relay the good news. And there was more demon bashing the following morning when he almost stuffed it in the hole.
“I hit a 9-iron this time to a left pin and it landed about three feet beyond the hole and it was really, really soft, and it sucked back and almost went in, right on the lip to about this far. So, I got two twos out of number 12 the first time back. Last two times I played the hole, I made birdie.”
Roll on April, and more questions about last April…
3) Plenty of reps in store for Tiger
We might have had to wait 466 days for any competitive sighting of Tiger Woods, now we are going to be sick of the sight of him in the next few weeks.
The ‘will he, won’t he?’ conundrum over his return was finally answered at his own tournament in the Bahamas at the start of December. He had more birdies than anyone else, yet beat only one other player in the 17-man field (Rose withdrew through injury) and we all couldn’t wait for more news of his next efforts.
And now we have it as he slowly trickled out the details –
Jan 26 Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines (PGA Tour)
Feb 2 Dubai Desert Classic (European Tour)
Feb 16 Genesis Open at Riviera (PGA Tour)
Feb 23 Honda Classic (PGA Tour)
Tiger’s form watch
Torrey Pines – seven wins including four on the bounce from 2005. And THAT US Open..
Dubai – made his debut in 2001, won in 2006 and 2008 and is -92 over 28 rounds
Riviera – last played there in 2006, no wins in 10 starts
Honda Classic – four appearances, no wins, one second place
4) Walker – Length isn’t everything
How refreshing to see a Major champion not being obsessed by length and actually being happy to lose a few yards for the sake of hitting more fairways.
PGA champion Jimmy Walker sat down with Mark Broadie at the end of the season and two areas where he needed to improve were driving accuracy and putting.
Hence a new 42-inch driver in Hawaii.
“Last year I didn’t drive it as well as I would have liked to have,” Walker said. “So I just kind of got to thinking. It was just kind of an experiment. I decided to cut one down and threw some tape on it liked it. It looks weird and sometimes it feels a little weird on the course, but I’ve been playing with it for about three weeks at home. I’ve since had Titleist make me a new one at that length and I’ve been enjoying hitting it.”
He has given up as much as 20 yards and lost a little ball speed but the spin rates are around the same and he is finding more of the short stuff.
“I just feel like I’ve got more control. I feel like the swing is better at that length for me, and that’s where I’ve always struggled, the longer the club got.”
As for the putting? He just needs to hit it harder..
5) More reason for all of us to look at our phones..
Love Twitter or hate it, there is some good news in that the PGA Tour will be streaming live coverage over the Twittersphere.
There will be over 70 hours shown from 31 tournaments with typically 60-90 minutes of play from the Thursday and Friday. And it all gets going at La Quinta in a couple of weeks.
“Streaming PGA Tour live programming to Twitter’s global audience, as well as the millions of users who follow @PGATOUR and hundreds of PGA Tour player accounts, will provide new and innovative ways for sports fans to engage with our premium OTT offering,” said the PGA Tour’s media officer.
Twitter already has live streaming agreements in place with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.