GolfDifferent Strokes

Rory McIlroy hoping home comforts will lead to Florida flourish

Matsuyama the perfectionist back to winning ways; Riveira bug hits Cantlay on final day

Rory McIlroy is looking forward to playing some events where he gets to “sleep in his own bed” as his attention turns to Florida after a slightly underwhelming spell on the west coast of the US. The Northern Irishman, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, followed a tied 66th at Pebble Beach with a tied 24th at Riviera, both tournaments hampered by uncharacteristic double and triple bogeys in the opening round.

McIlroy will play in the Cognizant Classic (formerly Honda Classic) at PGA National the week after next, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Players Championship at Sawgrass in a three-week stint. He is a former winner of all three events, as he gets in a big chunk of his pre-Masters preparation.

Honda still have some footprint in golf as they sponsor the LPGA Tour’s return after a month-long break, as Leona Maguire will play in the Honda LPGA Thailand event in Chonburi this week. Maguire faded at the weekend at the PIF Saudi International to finish tied 29th, but showed form with a 64 on day two which she will hope to bring to Thailand.

It is a week off for Séamus Power after a memorable week at Riviera saw him make two eagles en route to a tied 31st finish, while Conor Purcell is playing in Kenya on the DP World Tour.

Word of Mouth

“He holed a shot from the fairway on 3 in the pro-am. And he jokingly said, ‘The lid’s off now’ – so I guess it was.” – Will Zalatoris’s caddie Joel Stock after his player won himself and his caddie a car for his hole-in-one at the 14th hole at Riviera at the Genesis Invitational.

Perfectionist Matsuyama sets high standards

The golfer is never happy, even if you shoot your best round of the year, you still think of that five-foot putt you missed or that easy chip you left 20 feet short. Genesis Invitational winner Hideki Matsuyama took that to extreme levels on Sunday when he said he “wasn’t striking the ball really well” and felt “like he shot three over par”. His round? A final round nine-under-par 62 without a dropped shot where he gained 13 shots on the field.

His playing partner disagreed. “I’m trying to think if that was the most impressive round I’ve ever seen in person,” said JT Poston. “It’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen on Tour. He had like four birdie putts that were like this (Poston put his two index fingers six inches apart).

“He hit a couple bad drives (which might have been the source of Matsuyama’s frustration), but then recovered nicely and never had that long of a par putt. It was impressive.”

Matsuyama has form for being a perfectionist, letting clubs drop in disgust while the ball lands in the middle of the green, but even he looked happy with his approaches to 15 and 16 on the back nine from 189 yards to eight inches on 15, and 160 yards to six inches on 16. It was Matsuyama’s first victory in two years and a welcome return to form for the former Masters champion.

By the Numbers: 18

The number of birdies that David Puig made at the weekend at the Malaysian Open en route to the win. The LIV golfer, who is on Sergio Garcia’s team, will now qualify for the Open Championship in July thanks to this victory.

Riviera comes down with the sickness

Patrick Cantlay was the latest golfer to suffer from illness at the Genesis Invitational as he failed to close out his five-shot lead from Friday evening, finishing in a tie for fourth after a final round of 72. Golf Channel analyst Johnson Wagner said Cantlay woke up Sunday with a temperature exceeding 100 degrees, per Cantlay’s coach Jamie Mulligan.

It came as Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament on Friday with what he said was influenza. It was Woods’s third withdrawal in his seven events since his car crash in 2021. The other notable incident of the first few days was the disqualification of Jordan Spieth due to signing for the wrong score on Friday, which may have also been illness related.

Xander Schauffele suggested Spieth may have been distracted due to being “really sick”. “He had a rough last hole and I can see how it all went down. I heard he had to go to the restroom and came back like a minute later and the card was wrong.” If you have to go, you have to go. Just remember to check your scorecard afterwards.

X/Twitter Twaddle

Great playing Hideki! Just make sure you double check that scorecard ... 🤷‍♂️ – Jordan Spieth giving timely advice to Matsuyama.

Congratulations to @hidekiofficial_ on an incredible win at @thegenesisinv. I was watching all day and seeing a record breaking 62 and coming from six shots back was truly special. – Tiger Woods congratulates the winner.

Old school greens really lend themselves to shot shaping to give you the best chance to hit it close. Masterful fade into 15 from Hideki there. – Luke Donald praises the set-up at Riviera.

Know the Rules

Q: In a stroke play competition, Player A is preparing to putt from just off the green and requests Player B, who has already played, to leave his ball where it is close to the hole so that it can act as a backstop. Player B is unsure if he is permitted to leave the ball in place but agrees to do so. What is the outcome?

A: Under Rule 15.3a, if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help a player, and the stroke is made with helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed.

What’s in the Bag: Hideki Matsuyama (Genesis Invitational)

Driver: Srixon ZX5 Mk II LS (9.5 degrees)

3 wood: TaylorMade Qi10

5 wood: Cobra Radspeed Tour

Irons: Srixon Z-Forged blades (4-PW)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX-4 Prototype (52, 56 & 60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV

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