Monday, May 31, 2010

N.C. State's Hill Makes Pro Debut At Memorial

N.C. State's record-setting Matt Hill will make his professional debut this week at The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

Hill, who had one of college golf's all-time great seasons as a sophomore, decided to bypass his senior year and has signed with IMG to represent him and with Nike equipment. He had previously indicated he planned to turn pro after the 2009-10 college season ended.

A native of Bright's Grove, Ontario, hometown of former Masters champion Mike Weir, Hill had 20 top-10 finishes in 37 career tournaments for the Wolfpack. But it was his sophomore year that elevated Hill to a special place.

He won eight times as a sophomore, tying the NCAA record set by Tiger Woods in 1995-96. Hill's biggest victory was the individual title in the 2009 NCAA championship. Along the way, he earned the Jack Nicklaus award as the top college golfer in the country.

Hill's junior season was solid and included an individual victory at the Hootie at Bulls Bay tournament this spring. He also finished third in the ACC tournament but missed qualifying for the NCAA championship by one stroke.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does Tiger Belong On The Ryder Cup Team?

My two cents' worth:

-- Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin said last weekend that Tiger Woods isn't an automatic choice to be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall if he doesn't qualify on points. Only the top eight in the points list automatically make the team, leaving Pavin four at-large choices. Woods, right now, is in 11th place.

I agree with Jack Nicklaus who, while overseas, said Pavin would "need a brain scan" if he left Woods off the team.

Of course, Woods needs to be on the team unless he's physically unable to play. He's Tiger Woods. He has more major championships than everyone on the team combined will have. Maybe twice as many. You're going to take Dustin Johnson over Tiger Woods? No offense to Dustin Johnson, but no.

If Tiger wants to be in Wales in early October, he'll be there.

-- I'm not sure Mark Calcavecchia has gotten the credit he deserves for being a very good player for a very long time.

He's won 13 times on the PGA Tour, including a British Open, and he finished second 27 times. That's 40 times in the top two. That's a heckuva career.

Calc is headed to the Champions Tour after he turns 50 on June 12 and the Memorial next week will be his PGA Tour farewell. Media types, in particular, will miss him because there's no better quote than Calc.

-- A very cool thing is scheduled the day before the British Open begins at St. Andrews in July. A group of 28 former Open champions will play a four-hole exhibition on the first, second, 17th and 18th holes at the Old Course.

The group includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Peter Thomson, Robert de Vicenzo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros, among others. Given Ballesteros's health struggles, his presence should give the event an extraordinary emotional feel.

-- Concord's Cydney Clanton, who is completing her junior year at Auburn, is on the U.S. Curtis Cup team which will face the European team near Boston next month. Clanton has the game to make her a star when she turns pro.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Uptown golf offers easy escape for quick work on your game

If you’re working uptown and want to spend a few minutes working on your golf game without leaving the center city, now you can.

There’s an indoor golf facility at the Charlotte Athletic Club located on the second floor of the indoor shops near the corner of Trade and Tryon streets.

“There are hundreds of people working uptown who have trouble getting out of the office long enough to work on their golf games. It’s just not feasible,” said Jim Donnelly, developer of the 1,500-member club.

“Here, you can walk over and spend 30 minutes on your golf game and go back to work.”

Memberships are available, but it’s also open to walk-in visitors who want to stop in for the occasional session when the golf course is too far away.

The golf facility is built around the high-tech Swing Box simulator. It isn’t some high-end video game. It’s a multi-purpose bit of software that can serve as a practice range, a teaching aid or allow you to play Pebble Beach with your friends in about an hour.

Meaghan Trainor, the club’s golf instructor, played four years of college golf at Elon before playing the Duramed Futures Tour. A former assistant pro at the Quail Hollow Club, Trainor is certified by the Titleist Performance Institute.

For members, a 30-minute session on the Swing Box setup is $13. It’s $18 for nonmembers. Unlimited monthly sessions are $50 for members, $60 for nonmembers.

For more information, visit

Chip Shots

-- Charlotte’s Dana Rader has been voted third-best women’s teacher in the United States by Golf Digest magazine while Peggy Kirk Bell at Pine Needles Resort in Southern Pines is ranked fourth. Julie Cole, who works at the Dana Rader Golf School, is ranked 17th and Karen Palacios-Jansen, who runs, is ranked 27th.

The rankings were based on the votes of more than 1,100 members of the LPGA’s teaching and club professional organization, as well as PGA of America members.

-- Jack Nicklaus has added wine to his portfolio. The new Jack Nicklaus Wine collection is debuting this week in St. Andrews, Scotland and next week at the Memorial Tournament. The collection features cabernet sauvignon and will be available at wine stores and selected golf clubs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

It appears golf is going green.

Green as in young, fresh and unafraid.

At the Byron Nelson tournament, 22-year old Jason Day was the champion but 16-year old Jordan Spieth seemed the big winner with his 'looks like he belongs' performance that made him an instant star. Meanwhile, 16-year old Grayson Murray made the cut at the Nationwide Tour event in Raleigh last week.

Oh to be young, fearless and have a 28-inch waist.

Throw in what Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler and a handful of other young 'uns have done this year and you get the sense that another youth movement has arrived. It happens from time to time, thankfully, and right now seems to be one of those times.

It doesn't mean they've reshuffled the world order but it does show encouraging signs about what comes after Tiger, Phil and Ernie. One week doesn't get it done and the trick is sustaining the good play and the momentum.

Consider Day. Yes, he's 22 but he's been around for a few years now and there were growing questions as to when he was going to finally win. It's the flip side of being a young dynamo, suddenly having to deal with the pressure that comes with the expectations. Day may win many more times but his struggle to win once is a reminder of how difficult it is to succeed on the PGA Tour.

At a tournament absent stars, Spieth became one with his play and his personality. He's still in high school but he acted like playing a tour event was no big deal. He's still young enough to believe every putt's going in, every shot's going to come off the way he envisions it. That's part of the fun of watching the young players. They haven't built up the layers of scar tissue that eventually factor in as years ago by, introducing a shade of doubt.

As good as this young group may be, the reality check comes at the majors. No player among the current under-30 group has won a major championship. It would be nice to see that change and it may next month at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

That's when we find out who's all grown up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Questions: Best Golf Bargains, Freddie and Tiger

Five questions to consider while waiting on your weekend tee time:

1. What happened to the PGA Tour's Texas swing?

The tour is in the middle of a three-week run through the Lone Star State but it isn't exactly crackling with excitement. There was a time when the Texas swing drew most of the stars but now it's fallen into a funk. The field at the Byron Nelson event this week is among the weakest on tour this year and there weren't many stars in San Antonio last week.

There's no easy fix. Falling between the Quail Hollow-Players combination and with the Memorial still two weeks away, it's in a tough spot. The field should be better at Colonial next week but the Texas swing is in danger of becoming the tour's new dead zone on the spring schedule.

2. Can Michelle Wie save the LPGA?

She's the tour's best hope. With the loss of Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa over the past couple of years, the tour has lost its best players. It's also lost its way in the U.S. The combination of sponsor issues, an expansion into more international markets and the absence of a major star hasn't helped.

That's why Wie's success is critical. She has crossover appeal, meaning she can draw in fans who might not otherwise pay much attention to the LPGA tour. She seems destined to win big. The sooner she starts, the better for the LPGA Tour.

3. What are the best golf bargains around the Charlotte area?

I want to create a list of the best places to play around here for the best prices. If you have a course you think qualifies, send it along to me at We'll post a list in the coming weeks.

4. Has this been the quietest week on the Tiger Woods' front since Thanksgiving weekend?

Think about it -- there's been virtually no Tiger talk since he announced he has an inflamed joint in his neck. He's entered the British Open but otherwise there's been almost nothing about TW. It's a nice break for us and for him.

5. Is Fred Couples a part-time Charlottean?

I'm not sure about that but he's been spending plenty of time around here recently. He's purchased season tickets to the Charlotte Bobcats games and he's been hanging around town. When a friend of mine stopped by Quail Hollow recently to pick up his golf clubs, there was Freddie in the pro shop, hanging around like one of the guys, fiddling with a putter. Nice guy to have hanging around town.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Driscoll Helped Make Pinehurst A Special Place

Most of you probably don't know Janeen Driscoll unless you've come across her when she's watching her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers in which case you'd probably remember her.

For the past several years, she has been the communications director at Pinehurst Resort and now she's leaving. She's going to stay in Pinehurst but work for another company that promotes golf resorts around the world and she's leaving with the blessing of the people she's worked for at Pinehurst.

Janeen is one of the people who have given Pinehurst a large measure of its grace. She's not the only one but she has been one of the resort's great ambassadors, understanding and appreciating where she worked and what it means to the game and the people who respect it. She and Pinehurst have been a perfect fit.

Golf is about more than the game, just like other sports. It's about the people, the places and the memories that come along with the game, giving it a texture that reaches beyond the course. If you've played golf and been around the game for a while, you think as much or more about those things as you do the birdies you made and the shots you hit.

When the answer the phone at the resort, the operator says, "It's a beautiful day at Pinehurst."

Janeen Driscoll has been one of the reasons why.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Linville: A beautiful place to play golf

There are more famous neighborhoods in American golf -- the sweet spots surrounding Shinnecock Hills on Long Island come to mind, as do the classics in and around 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach -- but there aren't many better than the collection of golf clubs in and around Linville.

With the exception of the forever charming Linville Golf Club which allows some public play through the adjacent and equally charming Eseeola Lodge, they're all private clubs, which means most of us only hear about them. But if you've ever had the good fortune to play Grandfather Golf and Country Club (in photo above), Linville, the Elk River Club, Linville Ridge or Diamond Creek, you know you've had a good day regardless of how many golf balls you may have lost among the rhododendrum.

There's an old-world mystique to the North Carolina mountains around Linville. They've been rounded by time and when the clouds cling to them on gray days, it's like pieces of the sky are dragging on the hills.

The essence of golf isn't so much the shots you hit but the experience you have and at Grandfather or Linville or Elk River, it's a good walk that even a couple of double bogeys can't spoil. They're the kind of places where you find yourself looking up at the mountains around you, suddenly staring at a hawk gliding in the distance. It's where you stop the cart and before you hit a shot, you hear a brook gurling down the slope beside you. Glance over and you might see trout in the stream.

Standing on the eighth tee at Grandfather, you may not want to leave. It's among the prettiest par-4s in golf, playing up the hill with the top of the famous mountain rising in the distance is as dramatic as the 18th tee at Pebble Beach, maybe moreso on a perfect October afternoon.

At Linville Ridge, you can play along the mountaintop and look across at Grandfather, a view that never gets old. Just a few miles apart, Linville was designed by Donald Ross and Elk River was crafted by Jack Nicklaus, both giants of the game. Ross may have spent only a day or two walking the property at Linville but he designed a work of art that has aged beautifully. Nicklaus spent plenty of time at Elk River creating his own bit of art.

At the clubs around Linville, golf is a six-month sport. The game is just coming out of a long winter thaw and it will go back into hibernation by Thanksgiving. For this part of the year, though, it's golf in full bloom. It looks different and feels different.

The fairways are soft, surrendering divots the size of footprints, and the greens are subtly sloped and dangerous. Tee shots hang in the air, framed against a mountainside, and thunder rumbles over a hill many afternoons. There's a richness to golf around Linville, both in the literal and the physical sense.

In a quiet corner of the world, just two hours from Charlotte, the game has reemerged from another winter, as beautiful as ever.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tiger Woods is no longer a major sure thing

Sunday's column:

For all these years, the question wasn't if Tiger Woods would break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional major championship victories but when. ... I still think Woods will break the Nicklaus record and will finish with 20 or so major victories, but it doesn't seem as certain as it once did.

Read the full column

Friday, May 14, 2010

If Phil Wants To Talk Burgers, I'll Listen

As a man who loves cheeseburgers, I'm not taking sides on Phil Mickelson's recent assertion that Five Guys burgers are "hands down the best burger" he's ever had. I'm a fan of all burgers as long as they don't have mayonnaise on them.

What's interesting is that Mickelson's apparently off the cuff endorsement of the burger chain last week at The Players Championship wasn't entirely random. Mickelson, it turns out, is part of a group that owns the franchise rights to Five Guys in Orange County, Cal.

Stewart Cink passed that information along to Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson recently and, according to various reports, it's true. Good for Mickelson. He's reportedly looked into getting In-N-Out franchises and Waffle House franchises in the past. Now he's into Five Guys which will apparently soon challenge In-N-Out in SoCal.

I admire Mickelson for admitting his fondness for burgers. Makes him more of a regular guy.

He's spoken in the past about his fondness for In-N-Out burgers, a California classic and, having had a few of their burgers, I get where he's coming from. Now it's Five Guys. I get where he's coming from there, too.

If Phil wants to throw in a little burger endorsement, I don't have a problem with it. Tiger used to always put a bottle of his Tiger Gatorade on the table during his interviews. No problem with that, either. Having been around NASCAR long enough, golf's sponsor recognition is downright subtle.

And, if Phil wants to talk about burgers, I'll listen. It's a lot more interesting than talking about the new grooves.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nagy Philosophical About Near Miss

Corey Nagy won't be playing in the U.S. Open next month.

The Charlotte 49ers senior failed to make it through the local qualifying tournament Tuesday at Treyburn Golf Club in Durham, missing by one stroke when he bogeyed the 18th hole. It was a significant disappointment to the perpetually upbeat Nagy, who immediately redirected his attention to preparing for the NCAA regionals he and his Charlotte teammates will play next week at Yale Golf Club in New Haven, Ct.

Nagy said the competitve side of him wanted to slam his fist on the steering wheel driving home when he thought about how close he came to getting into the sectional qualifier but he didn't.

"I'm still going to play the regionals and I'll be a succesful professional," Nagy said. "That one bogey at the last hole won't affect me. There is a point when that competitive spirit comes in and you want to get mad but it's more important to swallow that."

Nagy is ranked 18th in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings for college golfers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tiger-Haney Parting Not A Huge Surprise

When news broke late Monday night that Hank Haney had decided to end his tenure as Tiger Woods' swing coach, it wasn't entirely surprising.

There has been talk for a while now that Haney's time as Tiger's extra set of eyes might be running out. It doesn't mean Haney didn't know how to fix what's not working in Woods' game right now. Their record together demonstrates how effectively they worked as player and coach.

Sometimes, though, it's time for a change. Haney said in his statement that it was his decision to leave, not Tiger's. So far, we haven't heard from Tiger about Haney's departure. You wonder, though, how hard Woods fought to keep Haney on his team. Maybe he begged him to stay. Maybe he understood it was time to do something different for both of them.

The question now is where does Woods go for a coach?

As good as he is, Woods needs a coach. He has a few familiar swing issues -- getting the club 'stuck' behind him and dropping his head on his downswing are the ones most commonly picked out by television analysts -- and it helps to have someone like Haney there to coach.

Woods had great success with Butch Harmon before working with Haney but it seems unlikely he'll reunite with Harmon, who now coaches Phil Mickelson among others. Harmon has been outspoken about Woods' game in recent years and, given his alliance with Mickelson, it seems a long shot that he'll go back to Harmon.

Last week, Sean Foley -- who coaches Sean O'Hair -- was the name being thrown around as Tiger's next coach. Foley denied having even spoken to Woods about it but the rumor mill was already churning before Haney issued his statement Monday night.

Right now, Woods' game is in a strange place. He's not playing well, his neck is bothering him and now he doesn't have a coach. It doesn't sound like a recipe for a quick fix.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tiger Woods' newest pain in the neck

For years, Tiger Woods made us ask what’s next. Now we’re asking the same question, but for a very different reason.

Read the full column.

Tiger's Pain In The Neck, Clark's Win and Phil The Thrill

A few thoughts now that former N.C. State golfer Tim Clark has finally hoisted a trophy -- and a very nice one -- on the PGA Tour:

-- For Clark, it was a victory that redefines his career. He joked that now he'll be just another guy on tour who's won a golf tournament, given his long history of near misses. He's right in a way. Clark owned the title of best player never to have won a tournament on the PGA Tour.

But the victory brought into sharper focus what a good player Clark has been for many years. He doesn't wow you with distance and he's an understated personality but his game speaks for itself. At The Players, Clark won on a course that turned brutally difficult on Sunday, proving he can handle the stress of winning and the demands of an unforgiving course.

Clark has finished second in the Masters and third in the U.S. Open and PGA. He's played on the International team in three Presidents Cup. Despite all of that, he was known for what he hadn't done. Not anymore.

-- Remember when Tiger Woods was the surest thing in golf?

Seems like a long time ago. Woods' withdrawal during the final round of The Players raises more questions at a time when there are already plenty of questions.

Woods looked like he was hurting Sunday when he left the course and the fitness trailer at The Players, suggesting he may have a bulging disc. If so, what does that mean? How long will he be out? Has it been part of the problem with his game? Will he go on another sabbatical from golf?

Tiger's re-entry into the PGA Tour hasn't been easy. He worked magic in finishing fourth at the Masters, essentially surrendered late in the second round at Quail Hollow when nothing was working and now his withdrawal at Ponte Vedra. There continue to be rumors about what's happening with him away from the golf course and it's made for an extremely difficult time.

Watching Woods play golf the past two weeks is like watching someone else. And, it raises the question of when we'll see the Tiger we're used to seeing again. No one's quite sure.

-- Phil Mickelson missed his chance to officially take over the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings for the first time -- but it's only a matter of time.

The way Mickelson has played recently, coupled with Woods' struggles, leaves little doubt that Mickelson is the best player in the game right now. You can put Lee Westwood right there, too, but he's been unable to finish tournaments. While Clark was brilliant shooting 66-67 on the weekend, Westwood must be kicking himself for another missed opportunity.

Mickelson has never been No. 1 in the rankings. While no one puts much stock in the rankings, the chance to take over the No. 1 spot is something that be nice to claim, especially in the Woods era.

With The Players now past, the focus turns next to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in less than six weeks. Mickelson will go in as the favorite there. He has five seconds in the Open. Maybe this is the year he finally gets the trophy.

-- The greens at the Stadium Course didn't look very good on television, due in part to a very tough winter and in part to cutting down for the championship. When the weather doesn't cooperate, there's only so much superintendents can do and the players were understanding of the conditions at Sawgrass.

It looked, however, like the greens were stressed to the max on Sunday. There's a new emphasis in American golf on understanding that everything doesn't have to look like Augusta National in April. Leaders are saying brown is the new green and they're right in promoting the idea that it's not so much how a course looks but how it plays.

I'm not sure that was the idea at the Stadium Course over the weekend, though.

Friday, May 07, 2010

McIlroy's Performance At Quail Still Has People Talking

It has been nearly a week since Rory McIlroy wrote his name in the sky above the Quail Hollow Club but the impact of what he did continues to reverberate.

McIlroy's Sunday 62 and breakout victory went beyond a typical victory on the PGA Tour. It was so spectacular that it has launched the discussion as to whether it may be the moment when the professional game began to shift toward a new generation. It's too early to tell but give it three or four years and we'll know more.

That's not to say that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are going anywhere. Mickelson is at the top of his game right now and has talked about his goal of being competitive throughout his 40s. Woods is in a tough spot right now but over time he'll be back and have something to prove. I still expect him to win a major championship this year, most likely the British Open at St. Andrews.

What McIlroy did at Quail Hollow crystallized the potential of the next generation, which includes Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Ryo Ishikawa. McIlroy may ultimately be the best of them but each of them brings both a big game and a big personality to the first tee.

Almost every place I've gone since McIlroy's victory people have wanted to talk about what he did. It excited people and for good reason. It's something to hold on to.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Where Can You Find 120,000 Golf Balls?

There is probably too much attention paid to the gimmicky 17th hole at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass but there's also too much attention paid to American Idol, Lindsay Lohan and who's wearing what to the Oscars. There's a side of us -- yes, all of us -- that can't resist that kind of stuff.

That's one of the reasons the 17th hole at the Stadium Course fascinates people. It's one of the rare golf holes, maybe the only one, that non-golfers know and will stop to watch someone play it in the same way casual viewers stop to watch wrecks in racing. It's short, it's different and it's potentially embarrassing. Perfect for Americans.

It's why golfers flock to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., -- to have their moment at the 17th hole. For the record, I've played it three times, drowned one Titleist and made two pars. That's not bragging. Just the facts. My record on the 18th hole looks more like the big one at Talladega.

Anyway, according to various reports, an average of 120,000 golf balls are hit into the water at the 17th hole every year. Based on an average of 44,000 rounds per year at the Stadium Course, that means most players go through close to a sleeve of balls when they're on the 17th tee. Sounds about right. Most of them still walk away smiling, having taken their swing -- or swings -- at glory.

And in case you're getting any ideas about selling recycled golf balls, divers go into the water four times a year and pull out the balls that didn't make it. Sounds like a good business to be in.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Charlotte's Nagy Nominated For Nelson Award

Charlotte's Corey Nagy is now being recognized for more than his golf game.

The 49ers' senior is one of six players nominated for the prestigious Byron Nelson Award, given annually to a graduating college golfer for his achievements on the course, in the classroom and for the character and integrity they've shown.

Nagy is nominated along with Seth Fair of Indianapolis, Brendan Gielow of Wake Forest, Adam Long of Duke, Jack Newman of Michigan State and Tom Whitney of Air Force. The award will be presented May 28 in Dallas.

For Nagy, it's another impressive honor in a special career. He has led the 49ers to four straight Atlantic-10 team championships and four straight NCAA tournament appearances. In the process, Nagy has won the A-10 individual title twice, finished second once and third another time. He is also on pace to set the school's single-season scoring average this year.

Monday, May 03, 2010

On Rory, Phil And A Great Week At Quail Hollow

A few thoughts before the Quail Hollow Championship gets too far away:

-- The golf world is buzzing about what Rory McIlroy did over the weekend at Quail Hollow, particularly what he did on Sunday. Coupled with the 58 shot by 18-year old Ryo Ishikawa on the Japanese tour, it was a monumental weekend for golf, especially the new generation.

The temptation is to say we've found the new Tiger. Not so fast. What we've found is a group of young players -- Rickie Fowler and Anthony Kim belong in the disucssion -- that is exceptional. Talking to Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo, he said "At worst, one of them has to be very special."

I think he's right. If I had to pick just one, I'd pick McIlroy. But I'd take any of them.

-- I was surprised by Phil Mickelson's comments about the greens at Quail Hollow but I think some of it was frustration after the day he had on Saturday. Mickelson generally has an agenda when he says something like that. Just what the agenda was, I'm not certain.

Maybe he was talking to the PGA Tour set-up staff, suggesting better hole locations. Maybe he was talking to Quail president Johnny Harris and Kerry Haigh of the PGA of America and telling them if they're serious about bringing a PGA Championship to Quail Hollow, soften some of the greens.

I thought Harris handled it perfectly, saying he'd rather know how Phil feels than not know. It doesn't mean Harris agrees with Mickelson but it will generate some discussion about what, if anything, to do next. The funny thing is Mickelson didn't say anything about the eighth green.

-- I don't have high expectations for Tiger Woods at The Players Championship this week based on what we saw at Quail Hollow. He looked lost as a golfer. There are swing issues he's dealing, for sure, but there's more than that.

As good as he's been at compartmentalizing things, he may have more than he can handle right now.

The funniest thing about it is to hear people saying he's finished at age 34. No, he's not. Not even close. I still think he wins a major championship this year.

-- It was another terrific week at Quail Hollow, maybe the best from start to finish given the multiple storylines. From Tiger's return to Phil to McIlroy and everything else, it was pure gold.

Congratulations again to the many people -- officials, volunteers and fans -- who make it what it is.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Remember Where You Were Kind Of Day

Years from now, Sunday may be one of those 'remember where you were' moments when it comes to Rory McIlroy.

Greatness has been expected of him for years now and what he did over the final 39 holes of the Quail Hollow Championship delivered greatness. He was headed to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for some early practice work before he eagled his 16th hole in the second round to make the cut on the number.

From there, as McIlroy said, the rest is history.

He made nine birdies Saturday shooting a 66 that could have been better then posted a 62 Sunday that could hardly have been better. Looking for the game's next superstar? He introduced himself Sunday at Quail Hollow.

McIlroy turns 21 on Tuesday but seems older. Not in his face but in his approach. He sees the big picture. According to the various stories I've read about McIlroy, his parents raised him well. He is polite, talkative and charming. He handled the champagne reception with Quail Hollow members flawlessly and seemed stunned when he checked his cell phone a few minutes later and discovered 58 text messages.

It's difficult to comprehend just how good McIlroy's Sunday performance was. It was a tough golf course, tough enough that Camilo Villegas shot 80 and Dustin Johnson shot 77. But McIlroy made it look benign.

After his eagle at 15, the one that basically won the tournament, McIlroy was in a fairway bunker at the 16th. After hitting his shot toward the green, McIlroy began walking out of the bunker without watching his ball land. Asked why, he sheepishly said, "I knew it was good."

It was beyond good. Sunday was beyond good. So is McIlroy.

Harris On Phil's Comments; 'Not A Big Deal'

While admitting he was surprised by Phil Mickelson's sharp criticism of the greens at Quail Hollow, club president Johnny Harris said Sunday he's glad to know how Mickelson feels.

"If he said it, he felt it," Harris said. "I'd rather know that than not know it."

After his Saturday round, Mickelson said Quail Hollow has "some of the worst-designed greens" on the PGA Tour, citing the 12th and 18th greens in particular. Mickelson was tied for second, two shots off the lead, at the time.

Harris said he looks forward to talking with Mickelson about his specific issues regarding the greens at Quail Hollow.

"I was sort of glad he voiced it," Harris said. "It helped us understand he had some concerns that he can help us to understand. We've always listened to players and patrons about how to improve the tournament. We want to be the best.

"We look forward to discussing it with him. It's not a big deal."

Mickelson was particularly bothered by a hole location on the right side of the 18th green. After hitting his second shot well beyond the hole, Mickelson was unable to putt toward the hole. Instead, he putted to the side then made an eight-footer for par.

The par-4 12th hole, which has a sharply sloped putting surface, also created a number of problems for players on Saturday.

"I was as surprised as anybody," said PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul, who is in charge of the course set-up. Phil has played here enough that to say that out of the blue when he didn't have a bad day was a little surprising.

"This is perhaps the best set of greens on tour because they are so different from the other greens on tour."

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Phil Takes A Big Rip At Quail's Greens

When Phil Mickelson made a point Saturday afternoon of saying the greens at the Quail Hollow Club are "some of the worst-designed greens" on the PGA Tour, it wasn't a one-off comment.

Mickelson said it on television, to a radio interviewer and to print reporters. He had a point to make and he made sure he made it.

He was still steaming from what was a terrific two-putt at the 18th green. He hit his approach shot 58 feet past the hole but because of the hole location and the slope, Mickelson couldn't try to make the putt. He had to play to the right of the hole and try to make the eight-footer for par. He did but he didn't like it.

Almost to make a point, Mickelson didn't have his caddie, Jim 'Bones' Mackay leave the flagstick in even though he was on the green. He was trying to make the putt.

When asked about what happened on 18, Mickelson used it to air his frustrations.

"For as beautifully designed as this golf course is from tee to gren, the greens are some of the worst-designed greens we have on tour and 18 is one of them," Mickelson said. "I would say 18 is the worst on tour except it's not the worst on this golf course, 12 is, and we have some ridiculous putts here that you just can't keep on (the green).

"But my mistake there was hitting it past the pin. I know that green is ridiculous. I never should have put myself in that position."

For a tournament that gets so much praise -- Mickelson has been among its strongest supporters -- it was an abrupt change to hear such sharp criticism. It may not change anything but it probably made Mickelson feel better to get it out.

And some of his fellow pros are probably glad he said it, too.