Wednesday 26 June 2019

McIlroy and Woods bid to bounce back in rubber city

Rory McIlroy. Photo: PA
Rory McIlroy. Photo: PA

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods can ease the sting of letting The Open slip through their fingers with victory in the final edition of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.

Both men held the lead at one point on the back nine at Carnoustie and, while McIlroy tied for second behind Francesco Molinari and Woods came home sixth, they know they let a Major-winning chance slip away.

"I said it's going to sting for a while and it certainly does," Woods said. "I played myself into a great position and I was tied for the lead at one point and ended up leading outright for just a little bit."

Like Woods, McIlroy was surprised the overnight leaders at Carnoustie went backwards. And while he saw the positives of finishing second without producing his A-game, it has slowly dawned on him that he could have picked up his fifth Major.

"It was a weird one," he said. "I saw the positives right away and as last week went on, I started to kick myself and say, 'Maybe I could have done this and done that.'"

Both men play well in Akron and with the US PGA at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis next week, they see this as a chance to warm engines over 72 holes with no cut.

Woods has won the event eight times and after making a superhuman effort to move from 1,199th to 50th in the world to qualify before it moves to Memphis next season, a ninth win would complete an incredible comeback.

"It certainly wasn't easy to get back in this event," said Woods, who is still gunning to make Jim Furyk's US Ryder Cup team on merit despite the fact that he's already a vice-captain.

"One of the reasons why I tried so hard to get back is because it does mean something special to me."

He insisted he'd have no physical problem playing two Ryder Cup matches a day in Paris and reiterated his desire to make the side with two qualifying events remaining. "I am still outside the top eight and while I am going to be there either case, I'd like to be there as a player as well."

Asked to assess his form wearing his a vice-captain's hat, he smiled and said: "What would be the word.... Trending."

McIlroy, who is joined in Akron by debutant Paul Dunne, has had one win and four top-10s in seven starts at Firestone and believes the event is ideal preparation for next week's final Major of the season.

Meanwhile, world No 89 Shane Lowry makes his debut in the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno looking for a win that could secure his PGA Tour card.

The Offaly man (31) is 34 spots outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings and like Seamus Power (123rd), Graeme McDowell (143rd) and Pádraig Harrington (222nd), he'll be on the attack in the modified stableford event.

His confidence will be high after he finished a season's best tie for 12th in the RBC Canadian Open last week, where he was third for par-five scoring and 11th for putting.

In Europe, Neil O'Briain, Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin tee it up in the Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson while Ronan Rafferty, Brendan McGovern, Paul McGinley, Des Smyth, Eamonn Darcy and Philip Walton play in the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship at The London Golf Club. WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Live, Sky Sports Golf, 6.30pm Women's British Open Live, Sky Sports, 11.0am

Irish Independent

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