Sport Golf

Tuesday 12 December 2017

McIlroy aiming to cut loose

Driving prowess to reap its reward in Memorial

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy take a break on the 11th green during the Memorial Skins Game in Dublin, Ohio yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy take a break on the 11th green during the Memorial Skins Game in Dublin, Ohio yesterday. Photo: Reuters

William S Callahan

RORY McILROY is looking forward to making sparks fly at Muirfield Village as he cuts loose once again with his trusty driver in The Memorial.

Confessing that changes to the West Course at Wentworth put a damper on his game during the BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy reckons he can throw off that straitjacket this weekend on the course Jack built in his native Ohio.

The Holywood youngster likes nothing better than ripping monster tee shots into the fairway and his prowess with the driver is the envy of many of his rivals on the US PGA Tour.

Not least Tiger Woods, who revealed on the eve of his title defence that he has no plans to replace recently departed swing coach Hank Haney, insisting he was able to correct any faults with the aid of video equipment.

With his failure yesterday to pay even scant tribute to Haney for helping him claim six Major titles and win 44pc of the tournaments he entered over the past 30 months, Woods unwittingly offered a telling insight into the reason why the Texan probably decided to terminate their relationship.

In his first media briefing since last month's Players Championship at Sawgrass, when he withdrew after six holes on the Sunday with a neck muscle injury which, he claimed, had been bothering him for some time, Woods was asked why he had told reporters he was 100pc injury-free 48 hours earlier.

"Because you don't need to know," Woods replied evenly. With an attitude like that and playing as badly as he did at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass, why would anybody want to know?

What of Woods' assertion yesterday that the neck injury had cleared sufficiently and would not hamper his bid this weekend to extend his record number of victories at The Memorial to five? Was that also made on a need-to-know basis? Frankly, it's hard to believe a word out of Tiger's mouth these days.

Woods once again is the bookies' favourite to win this weekend, though last year's runner-up at Muirfield Village Jim Furyk and 2004 Memorial champion Ernie Els -- both two-time winners on the PGA Tour this season -- have far better credentials for success.

Phil Mickelson could knock Tiger off the top of the world rankings if he wins for the first time here but Lefty's memorable victory at the Masters and second place to runaway Rory at Quail Hollow cannot completely camouflage his problems with an unruly driver.

This week's host, Jack Nicklaus, has always refused to nominate his favourite among the many courses he has designed worldwide, but the reputation of Muirfield Village as the most prestigious of them all was further boosted yesterday when it was confirmed as venue for the 2013 Presidents Cup.


As the Ryder Cup (1987) and Solheim Cup ('98) were played there, Muirfield Village is to become the first venue to host all three of golf's most prestigious inter-continental championships.

McIlroy certainly is a fan. "Everyone told me how great a golf course it is. I played 18 on Monday, played yesterday again, and it's fantastic," he gushed.

However, the youngster -- who was delighted to achieve one lifetime ambition yesterday by teeing it up with Tiger for the first time at the annual pre-tournament skins game, albeit in a five-ball with Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk -- didn't pull his punches when it came to the controversial facelift carried out at Wentworth before last month's BMW PGA Championship.

"I thought there were a few things that took away from the tournament a bit," McIlroy, who finished 48th, wrote on his website. "I always felt restricted on what I could do. I had to hit five and three-woods off tees a lot of the time and I'm the sort of player that likes to stand up with the driver and try to get it down there. The course really limited me as to what I could do off the tee."

Well, McIlroy will have a chance to tell Ernie all about it today and tomorrow. He's been drawn with Els and Sean O'Hair for the first 36 holes at The Memorial.

The Memorial Tournament,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0

Irish Independent

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