Blog Entry

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:14 pm
Rory McIlroy reacts after his final putt drops at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Rory and Tiger most impressive at closing

A lot of things will be made about what happened on Sunday at the Honda Classic. Tiger Woods’ charge up the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy winning and becoming No. 1 in the world. 

But the thing that impressed me the most? How both were able to finish their rounds. 

So many times pro golfers will play great until the end, see what they are doing, and lose focus. You saw that with Brian Harman on Friday, when a holed bunker shot would have landed him in the 59 club, but instead of making the shot, he hit it three feet and then missed the putt for a 60. Sure, 61 is great, but that focus was lost for a second and a shot was dropped that would have allowed him his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. 

Tiger has been struggling mightily in recent events he was in contention in with actually closing the round. The tournament that comes to mind first was the Masters a year ago, when Tiger made a run early in his round only to struggle on the holes he usually dominates. 

Not this Sunday. Tiger put together a fantastic round in swirling winds, and finished it with a birdie-eagle finish. 

McIlroy was no different. His scrambling and bunker play on Sunday reminded me of Retief Goosen back in 2001 at Southern Hills, but Rory kept missing his golf shots in the right spots, and kept hitting unbelievable chip shots in short range of the cup to give him chances at par, which he converted. 

The comparisons of Tiger and Rory are plentiful after Sunday, but the thing that Woods used to do that separated himself from the pack was play well with a lead, and Rory did just that on Sunday, closing his round out with solid pars when he knew that was all he needed. A less steady McIlroy might have let the Tiger charge ruin him. The new Rory didn’t, and his ability to make the important putts down the stretch allowed him to breeze up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead and an easy run at par and the win. 

A confidence boost week

There are so many names that will be looking back at the Honda Classic with positive thoughts. 

The easy ones are Rory and Tiger, both using this week as a springboard for the rest of the season, but look down the leaderboard and see all the big names that played well at the Champions Course. 

Tom Gillis almost quit golf at one point, but played steady all week, even in the final round, and made a clutch birdie on the last hole to tie for second with Tiger and earn some serious dough he can put towards his 2013 card. 

Lee Westwood was paired with Woods early in the week, and while Tiger always outshines the rest of the field, we shouldn’t forget that Lee fired a final round 63 before Tiger finished to jump 23 spots for a fourth place finish alone. 

And then comes Rickie Fowler. I had a discussion early in the week about the state of Fowler’s game and we decided the kid was regressing and maybe needed a swing change to get to more consistent. 

Maybe I was completely wrong. Rickie shot 66 on Sunday for his first top-10 finish of the season and showed he isn’t completely lost out there. 

The Nationwide Tour’s U.S. Open?

This past weekend, the Nationwide Tour headed to Panama City for an event at the Panama Golf Club, and I’m just going to toss this out there; you might want to avoid that golf course if you want to keep your pride in tact. 

The winning score was 4-under, courtesy of Edward Loar, but he shot a final round 74 to win the event and only six players all week finished in red figures. 

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Since: Jul 15, 2011
Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:39 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

How cool would it be to see Rory, Tiger, and Phil in the final group(s) on Sunday; Neilson ratings would pop!  This could prove to be one of the best years for golf fans since the Golden Bear won the Masters.

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:12 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Mkrsmrk: I don't HATE, or LOVE, anyone.  As you said, it's a game.  And the article was talking about CLOSING ability, not this one tourney, and was making FAR too much of one hole, one round, one tourney.  I don't know TW personally, and neither do you, so neither of us has any basis whatsoever to love or hate him.  FYI, though, when he was a junior player in SoCal, I followed Tiger's career as a HUGE fan as he won six straight USGA amateur championships, junior and regular.  I am not a fan anymore, but not a "hater", as guys such as you like to paint anyone who doesn't worship him.  The game is far more interesting when TW is playing, which he doesn't do very often.  You need to grow up and find a better role model.

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:05 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Teres Minor: (And even MORE "minor" after your latest comments!)  No one is "slobbering" over anyone except...well, YOU, over Tiger.  You really need to get over your man-crush...he doesn't swing both ways, as far as I know, so you don't have a chance, anyway.

Since: Oct 24, 2011
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:04 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Geez bobthefan, he wasn't comparing harman to Tiger or Rory he was using it as an example from the last round of the most recent tournamnet. You seem to have a lot of hate built up in you. It's a game, let it go, let it go.

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:00 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Talk about cherry-picking examples to make a bogus point!!  So Harman's failure to get up and down on 18 means he was "distracted" and couldn't "finish"??  Hey, he still shot a 61, while Tiger needed an EAGLE on the last hole to shoot 62!!  Unless things have changed, 61 beats 62 every time!  And to carry it further, what about Tiger blowing that 5-footer at the match play event last week on the last hole, which cost him the match?  Yeah, that sure is "finishing" the round, isn't it?!  Zeesh, what claptrap....!!!

Since: Feb 28, 2012
Posted on: March 5, 2012 6:14 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

This is all fine but you can't count on great closers having to make up 8 or 9 shots in the final round every time.

Tiger gained some course knowledge over the tournament and made improvements over the course of the 4 days.  He has experience at Doral and other of the courses coming perhaps he doesn't have to make up as many (if any) over the next several weeks.

There was't pressure on any other of the players 8 strokes or so back...where was their comeback...Westwood andTW...that was it.

Our expectations are higher for Tiger than anybody else because he made us do that...he made the seemingly impossible look...easy.  so now he is an "average" golfer who will not win another major?! Right.  So, with that logic are we to believe that the players that finished behind him at Honda (Westwood, Schwartzel and Rose) won't win another major?  I think that Tiger's comeback has shown us his "mortal" side and so this upswing in his momentum leads us to believe he is average.

I don't think I can be lulled ito that kind of thinking...I believe that #15 is coming this year andd i wonder if even his haters would bet against him on that notion.

Since: Jan 16, 2010
Posted on: March 5, 2012 4:38 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

I dont think people are slobbering all over Rory, the fact that he has won only 1 major might be due to the fact that he is just 22 years old not due to anything Tiger has done. Tiger has been the best player of his generation however there is a new group of players that won't fold quite as easily as Ernie, Freddy, and Davis would.

Today the equipment and the fact that everyone is more athletic has leveled the playing field and allowed more players to contend on a weekly basis. The days of Tiger or anyone for that matter dominating the tours are all but over. Does Tiger bring up the TV ratings? sure he does. Does he bring more people to the game in terms of play? the answer to that is no.

There are great stories each week on tour, for my money it had nothing to do with Tiger shooting a pressure free 62 or Rory coasting to the number 1 ranking,. The best story was Tom Gillis a 43 year old who more than held his own and perhaps won enough to keep his card for the following year. Not bad for a guy who was ready to give up playing.

Tiger will be back not when he fires more 62's but when he stops carding 73's. It takes 4 solid rounds to win. The tour is full of guys that can play 54 holes however these events go 72.

Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: March 5, 2012 4:04 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Again, no Tiger hater here, just a guy that hates the Tiger lovers, as most of them know little about the game and only watch golf for Tiger.  Of course it will be better if Tiger is "back" but what if he is already "back" and still gets beat, like this week, or the week at Pebble? 

You think McIlroy doesnt want the chance to take down Tiger at his best?

Ive said this before, but what will make golf really great is if Rory remains the new top dog and guys like Tiger and Phil play their best and take him out once in a while or fall to him like this week.  The Tiger on top dominating for extended periods of time is probably gone b/c the talent gap has narrowed as others are not so wowed by his ability as they once were.  These new young guys can hit all the shots he can and maybe more.  Will any of them win double digit majors?  Who knows, but if anyone has that chance McIlroy is clearly the favorite with what he has done already and 20+ years ahead of him.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:40 pm

Rory is NOT "the story..."

Rory makes a cute "number one in the world" for now, but he shouldn't get too used to the title.  Besides, Tiger's near-comeback from nine strokes down and a 62 on the last day at a tough course is some of the biggest news on the tour.  

It amazes me that the Tiger-haters are so ardent and fervent in their hatred that they can't just congratulate Rory without slagging Tiger.  It is sad that so many people are so desperate for someone to replace Tiger Woods at the top of the game that they are slobbing all over a guy who has won one major.  

If things go really well, Rory will be the "rival" for Tiger that the game has needed for so long.  If they go even better, one of the younger US players will step up this year or next and put his hat in the ring.  The bottom line, though, is that the US and the US tour need a healthy, dominant Tiger Woods to bring their "numbers" back up.  

Tiger Wood' presence in a tournament, especially when he is in contention, usually results in increased viewers and live gate between 40 and 60 percent.  The US Tour can use those kind of numbers right now, especially in markets like the Tampa Bay area, which is having a terrible time finding sponsorship for its tour event.  

Sorry, Tiger-haters, but Tiger Woods and his comeback are still THE STORY on the tour and the factor that is the most likely to keep "acceptable" levels of money coming in. 

Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:59 pm

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Hold on...  Brian Harman lost his focus when alll he needed to do for 59 was hole out from the bunker?

That's unforgivable!

Actually, if a player has a sand save percentage over 50, he's in the top half of PGA players.

Shane, please stop writing so much about Tiger Woods.  This is 2012 and...


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