Monday, April 20, 2009

Rory Leaves, Gay Arrives, Price Returns

A week before the Quail Hollow Championship arrives, let's take a whirl around the Front Nine:


After finishing the Verizon Heritage early Sunday afternoon, 19-year-old Rory McIlroy (above) walked toward the scoring trailer and, upon seeing a familiar face, raised his hands over his head and said, "I'm going home!"

It has been a whirlwind three weeks for the Irish teen, he finished tied for 19th in the Shell Houston Open, tied for 20th in the Masters and a disappointing tied for 58th in the Heritage.

"It's been great," McIlroy said before heading overseas. "Enjoy coming here. I love the way of life, the climate, the courses. But three weeks is more than enough for me."

McIlroy said he plans to take this week off, playing some tennis and soccer at home with friends, getting away from golf for a while.

Though he liked Harbour Town, McIlroy said he wasn't as sharp as he'd have liked here.

"I think (the Masters) got the best of me," McIroy said. "I wasn't there this week. I burned a lot of energy at Augusta but I still tried to play my best here."

McIlroy said he will re-evaluate whether to play the week after the Masters next year, assuming he's in the field.

He has also put off joining the PGA Tour, preferring to base himself on the European Tour, at least for the time being.

Asked if it's true he may get his bushy black hair trimmed when he gets home, McIlroy wasn't saying.

"I might do it," he said. "We'll see."


If you weren’t quite sure who Brian Gay (left) was before his blowout victory at the Verizon Heritage, you have an idea now.

And you’ll probably get more familiar with him as the season plays out.

Gay’s personality is as understated as his fashion-forward clothes are loud, and he’s comfortable with that. While the attention has focused on other guys, Gay has steadily moved up in class.

He’s not the type to overpower long courses but at certain places – Harbour Town was ideal for him just as Colonial should be – Gay’s precise ballstriking and sharp short game make him dangerous. Don’t be surprised if he wins again this year.


The win at Hilton Head stamped Gay’s ticket to the Masters next year and, like so many others, it fulfills a lifetime dream.

The child of a military family, Gay grew up in Georgia and Alabama and attended his first Masters before he was 10 years old. He’s been to the tournament several times and had chances to play Augusta National but never has.

“I said I’d never go play it until I got in the tournament,” Gay said Sunday. “I figured I’d wait and play my way in.”

Consider it done.


It’s surprising that it took Nick Price two years on the Champions Tour before winning his first tournament – and it wasn’t the prettiest thing when it happened.

Price won the Outback Pro-Am Sunday near Tampa with a final round that included three double-bogeys and one bogey offset by seven birdies. Not exactly classic stuff but it got the job done.

“Things are supposed to get easier when you get older,” Price said after his victory. “They’re getting harder.”

Price is one of the great gentlemen in the game and was the No. 1 player in the world for a time. He struggled with his game before hitting the Champions Tour because, like others, he tried to find some extra distance and wasn’t the same player.

Now that he’s finally won again, maybe he’ll start stacking them up.


The World Golf Hall of Fame will announce its new class this week during the Champions Tour visit to Savannah, Ga.

Lanny Wadkins seems likely to get in with Doug Ford a possibility. On the international side, Jose Maria Olazabal deserves a spot.


Daily tickets for Saturday’s round at the Quail Hollow Championship have sold out and Friday and Sunday tickets are close to being gone.

Weekly badges are still available as are practice packages which are good Monday through Wednesday. With a handful of high-profile commitments expected this week, tickets will probably go fast.

The new ticket booth at Southpark Mall has been a great success. Tickets are also available at


When Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst lost the ACC women’s individual championship Sunday in a playoff with Wake Forest’s Natalie Sheary, it prevented her from winning the title each of her four years at Duke.

Blumenherst, the three-time national player of the year, has struggled at times this season but has played much better recently. In a program blessed with exceptional talent for years, Blumenherst has set a new standard.


Double-digit victories on the PGA Tour since 1998:

  • 2000 U.S. Open 15 strokes Tiger Woods
  • 2006 BellSouth 13 strokes Phil Mickelson
  • 2003 Bay Hill 11 strokes Tiger Woods
  • 2000 WGC-NEC 11 strokes Tiger Woods
  • 2009 Verizon 10 strokes Brian Gay


"They like to goof off and hoot and holler just like I do." -- Boo Weekley (above), on why he's so popular with spectators