GolfDifferent Strokes

Different Strokes: McIlroy convinced it is only a matter of time before he returns to the winner’s circle

Paul Azinger says it’s a sad day for golf that PGA Tour ‘has fast become the qualifier for LIV’

You won’t hear Rory McIlroy complaining about being too busy as the world number two – who beat the weather to secure a top-20 finish in the Cognizant Classic and teamed-up with his father Gerry in the Seminole Golf Club members’ competition on Monday – goes from one tournament to another.

“It’s the life that I wanted, the life that I’ve asked for. I’m not going to complain. This is what I want to do. I like being busy,” said McIlroy, who continues in competitive mode at a favoured hunting ground in Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then moves on to next week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, which marks the 50th anniversary of the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

McIlroy hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since lifting the Genesis Scottish Open last July (he won the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour in January) but is convinced it is only a matter of time before he returns to the winner’s circle in a schedule geared towards the Masters next month.

“Overall the game seems to be trending in the right direction. I drove the ball great again [at the Cognizant Classic]. That’s the foundation of my game. When that’s good I just need some of the rest of the pieces to fall into place. Hopefully they can over the next couple of weeks…I’m looking forward to Bay Hill and The Players too. This [year] has been a little stop-start since the Middle East, so I’m looking forward to getting on a run of events.”


McNeilly steps down as Irish golf team captain

Gareth McNeilly, a tremendous advocate for the promotion of disabled golf, has stepped down as Irish team captain for health reasons.

A member of Massereene Golf Club on the shores of Lough Neagh in Co Antrim, McNeilly – who lost a leg in a motorbike accident in 2004 – was an inspirational campaigner for disabled golf, not just in Ireland but internationally, and captained Ireland to European Championship success in 2022.

On his decision to leave the role as Ireland captain, McNeilly explained: “In April 2023, I was diagnosed with a chronic lung condition which thankfully is under control with medication, but has taken a lot out of me physically and mentally. I have made the incredibly tough decision to step down as Irish disabled golf team captain and take a break from competitive disabled golf to concentrate on my health. The past seven years have given me incredible memories and successes way beyond anything I could have dreamt about.”

Word of Mouth

“The best players aren’t all playing PGA Tour tournaments. That’s over. Suddenly the LIV Tour, let’s just say it like this, the PGA Tour has fast become the qualifier for LIV and it’s a sad day for golf” – Paul Azinger, former tour player and US Ryder Cup captain and former TV commentator, giving his tuppence worth on the state of the game in an interview with Golfweek.

By the Numbers: 3-1

There are three Irish players – Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Séamus Power – in the field for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill; Tom McKibbin is the lone Irishman competing in the Jonsson Workwear Open in South Africa on the DP World Tour.

On this day: March 5th, 1989

Blaine McCallister – noted for the fact he played shots right-handed but putted left-handed – closed with a 64 for a record low total of 22-under-par 266 to win the Honda Classic, finishing with a four-strokes margin over Payne Stewart in the tournament at Eagle Trace.

The gum-chewing Texan’s score beat the previous record of Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin by three shots, but the margin of victory disguised a nervous homeward run with some wayward drives, although an unlikely par save on the 16th – where he hit his approach shot from behind a forklift over water to the green – was followed by a birdie on the 17th to give him some breathing room.

McCallister went into the final round one shot behind 54-hole leader Steve Pate but tied him with a birdie on the third and claimed the solo lead with an eagle on the fifth en route to his second of five career wins on the PGA Tour, which earned him a payday of $144,000.

X-Twitter Twaddle

I played in one API [Arnold Palmer Invitational] and it was the King’s last one before passing. Such an honour to have gotten to shake his hand and thank him for stratosphering the game of golf.” – former tour player Willy Wilcox remembering the tradition of Arnold Palmer shaking the hand of each player on finishing their round at the 18th hole at Bay Hill.

T15 this week in Saudi, next stop Hong Kong – Tyrrell Hatton, winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2020 (his only PGA Tour win) on the different golfing world he has embraced since his defection to LIV.

This is my golf club and course. It’s where I fell in love with the beautiful and wonderful game. if it wasn’t for this place I don’t know where I’d be today” – Scottish caddie Craig Connelly, aka the Wee Man, petitioning to save Dalmuir Golf Club.

Know the Rules

Q: A player takes lateral relief from a red penalty area by correctly dropping a ball in the two club-length relief area. While the player is assessing their next shot, a gust of wind blows the ball back into the penalty area. What is the ruling?

A: There no penalty but the player must replace the ball back on its original spot. This situation is covered under Rule 9.3, which includes natural forces causing the ball at rest to move and subsequently coming to rest in another area of the course or out of bounds.

In the Bag: Hannah Green (HSBC World Championship)

Driver: Callaway AI Smoke (10.5 degrees)

Fairway woods: Ping G425 MAX5 (14.5 degrees and 17.5 degrees)

Hybrid: Ping G425 5 Hybrid (26 degrees)

Irons: Srixon ZX7 MKII (5-PW)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX 6 ZipCore Black Satin (54, 56 and 58 degrees)

Putter: Ping Sigma 2 Tyne

Ball: Srixon Z Star Diamond