Rory McIlroy was clubhouse leader overnight on five under, but is five shots off the lead at the halfway mark at Southern Hills after a second-round 71; “Maybe it was a case of I wasn’t quite as committed or aggressive as I was yesterday”
Rory McIlroy denied that nerves got the better of him as he carded a second-round 71 to drop to four under, five shots off the lead at halfway stage of the PGA Championship in Southern Hills.
McIlroy held the clubhouse lead at five under overnight but by the time he teed off, that had been taken by Justin Thomas (-6), with Will Zalatoris (-9) then stretching ahead after carding a bogey-free 65.
McIlroy, meanwhile, lost further ground as he dropped a shot at the second and three-putted for bogey at the seventh.
The two-time PGA champion recovered somewhat on the back nine, registering a first birdie of the day when holing a putt from 10 feet at the 12th, with a run of pars down the closing stretch leaving him on four under alongside Abraham Ancer and Davis riley
“I didn’t get off to the best of starts,” McIlroy told reporters. “That bogey on two, and then, from there, I didn’t give myself enough realistic chances for birdies.
“After that, I played solidly on the way in; to play the last 11 holes one under was respectable, not to make another bogey.
“I gave myself a few more chances on the back nine and just couldn’t quite capitalise on a couple of them. But those up-and-downs on 16, 17, and 18 I think were really important. It just keeps me a little closer to the lead and doesn’t really feel like I’ve got such a mountain to climb as if I had have maybe dropped one or two over those last three holes.
“There’s a long way to go, a lot of golf left. We’re going to see a completely different golf course the next two days because of the wind direction. It’s going to play completely differently and that makes it very interesting.
When asked if nerves played a factor in his underwhelming round compared to Thursday, McIlroy answered: “No, I don’t think so. I felt pretty relaxed out there.
“I wouldn’t say it was nerves. You’re not going to go out and shoot 65 every day.
“Maybe it was a case of I wasn’t quite as committed or aggressive as I was yesterday.”
McIlroy has played alongside Jordan Spieth (+1) and his hero Tiger Woods (+3) during the first two days in Tulsa, with Woods particularly impressive on Friday in carding a one-under round to ensure he made the cut – a remarkable feat in just his second tournament back since almost losing a leg after being involved in a car crash last February.
“Just unbelievable,” McIlroy said of Woods’ effort. “Making the cut at Augusta and making the cut here; I was joking with Joey LaCava [Woods’ caddie] yesterday and saying, he could have come back and played two of the flattest courses on Tour, but no he comes to two of the toughest walks that we have.
“Just incredibly resilient and mentally tough. To get a front-row seat – he’s feeling it, on every swing – to see what he did on that back nine.
“He’s the ultimate pro. Looking at him yesterday, if that would have been me, I would have been considering pulling out and just going home, but Tiger is different and he’s proved he’s different.
Four Days That Changed Golf
Perhaps the most important thing to remember on the 25th anniversary of Tiger Woods’s seismic victory at the 1997 Masters, the first of his 15 major championships, is that almost no one saw it coming.
Yes, Woods, then 21, had won three PGA Tour events, and there was avid interest in his first major as a professional. But one year earlier, as an amateur, he had missed the Masters cut. In 1995, he tied for 41st. It was accepted wisdom that grasping the intricate nuances of Augusta National Golf Club would take years. Woods, it was said repeatedly by the tour’s elders, would have to wait.
“That’s how I felt,” Paul Azinger, a 14-year tour veteran in 1997 and the winner of the 1993 P.G.A. Championship, said in an interview last month. “It’s harder than it looks.”
Azinger felt differently after he was paired with Woods in the second round. For the first time, he watched Woods hit a ball with a driver. Azinger, now 62, had never seen a golf shot hang in the air for so long as it rocketed away from the tee.
“I can still see that white ball framed against the dark trees in the distance, then the blue sky and then the green fairway — it was a bullet that seemed to never stop,” Azinger, now an NBC golf analyst, said.
The four days of the 1997 Masters would turn out to be a profound experience for those of us fortunate to be on the grounds at Augusta National, and for 44 million people who watched on television. It set records and broke cultural ground, as Woods became the first nonwhite athlete to win golf’s most tradition-bound event. It permanently reshaped almost every aspect of the game, how it would be broadcast and who might watch, and it was the first globally prominent chapter in the life of a young Black man with a catchy nickname who would soon become one of the most famous and most popular people in the world.
Although many remember vividly the moment that Woods won — the 4-foot putt and his full-body fist pump — not everyone recalls that his week began inauspiciously.
The First Round
During his first nine holes on Thursday, Woods very nearly played his way out of the tournament. He shot a four-over-par 40 with four bogeys and no birdies. I realized it was possible for him to win, but it seemed unlikely. It was Augusta National. It takes time. Almost every enduring, top golfer from the last 60 years — Palmer, Nicklaus, Faldo, etc. — did not win the tournament until his fourth try. Most won in their fifth or sixth. And they weren’t 21, either.
But when Woods then shot 30 on the back nine — and was calm in the news conference afterward, as if he had expected it — that’s when I knew he would be contending on Sunday.
NICK FALDO (defending Masters champion, paired in the first round with Woods) We both made a mess on the front nine; just knocking it all over the place. I had won six majors so maybe people gave me a little slack, but for Tiger, I’m sure a lot of people were probably thinking, “Well, he’s still a little in over his head, isn’t he?”
TOM KITE (finished second) The Tiger curiosity was very high so I have no doubt a lot of guys in the field heard about that opening 40.
TOMMY BENNETT (one of many Black caddies picked by the club from the nearby Sand Hills neighborhood) Somebody told me Tiger shot 40, and I said, “Doesn’t matter, man, he’s not worried.” That kid was raised to be fearless. When I caddied for him in ’95 [at the Masters] he only put three balls in his bag and told me he wouldn’t need any more. And he didn’t. I knew he’d come back.
FALDO Tiger birdied the 10th and chipped in for birdie on the 12th hole. That shot was basically the beginning of the rest of his career.
JEFF SLUMAN (tied for seventh) The chip from behind the 12th green was incredibly difficult. Everybody watching was saying, “He’s got to be careful not to pitch that back into Rae’s Creek and make double bogey.” And bang! He puts it in the hole. Are you kidding?
FALDO The crowds around us started getting bigger and bigger and louder and louder. He seemed to feed off that. It was the beginning of Tiger mania, right? I looked around and realized that this is really something to remember.
Woods would birdie the par-5 13th and eagle the par-5 15th — for the tournament he would be 13 under on the par 5s — then added another birdie on the 17th hole. He finished at two-under-par 70, one of only seven golfers in the field of 86 to break par that day. Woods celebrated by heading to the drive-through of the Arby’s on Washington Road just beyond the club’s ornate front gate. He had two of his Stanford college buddies in the car. After they wolfed down roast beef sandwiches at the house rented with Woods’s parents, Earl and Kultida, they played basketball in the driveway and table tennis in the basement.
The Second Round
KITE The conditions had been so hard the first day — windy with very firm greens — you bet 70 was a good score. People noticed.
AZINGER I suddenly realized how many people were following us and how much pressure he was already under.
LEE WESTWOOD (playing in his first Masters) It was obvious how strong he was mentally, and his age did not matter.
AZINGER We get to the 13th hole on the back nine and he’s now four under par for the tournament, which is not too shabby. Then Tiger goes eagle-birdie-birdie on 13, 14 and 15.
JIM NANTZ (longtime CBS Masters host) Tiger made the putt for eagle on 13 and I looked at my watch thinking this might be a historic moment. I said, “Let the record show that a little after 5:30 on this Friday, April the 11th, Tiger takes the lead for the very first time at the Masters.”
AZINGER Tiger was hitting a wedge or 9-iron to the greens on the back nine par 5s while some guys were hitting 3-woods there. Tiger looked like he wasn’t more than 155 pounds and his swing was so fierce I worried for his back even then, but my goodness, every shot had such integrity. As pros, we know it when we see it.
JUSTIN LEONARD (1997 British Open champion) We were trying to beat this guy, but I knew I couldn’t drive it as far, I didn’t hit my irons as well, I didn’t have his short game and I didn’t putt as well. You knew you were going to be able to watch history, but you weren’t going to be making any history yourself.
At the midpoint of the tournament, Colin Montgomerie, a sometimes crusty Scot who at 33 had competed in 22 majors and finished in the top 10 five times, trailed Woods by three strokes. In a packed news conference after the second round, Montgomerie said of Woods, “The pressure is mounting, and I have a lot more experience in major championships than he has.”
The Third Round
Before Woods’s third round on Saturday began — he was in the final grouping, the prime TV spot, with Montgomerie — Butch Harmon, Woods’s coach, put his arm around his pupil and said, “Let’s go show Colin Montgomerie who you really are.”
Woods responded, “Oh, don’t worry.”
LEONARD I would have said the same thing as Colin. As professional golfers you have to try to draw on experience if you have it, and Colin had the experience — with some success. But at the end of the day it didn’t matter at all.
Woods, in a 2007 interview on the 10th anniversary of his 1997 victory, said: “Colin’s comment did motivate me. Maybe if he had already won a major I might have let it go, but since he had not, I figured we were pretty even going into that round.”
BERNHARD LANGER (1985 and 1993 Masters champion) I had played in Thailand with Tiger when he was an amateur and it was clear as day that this was going to be a different kind of rookie on tour. In the third round Saturday he shot 65, right? Seven birdies? It doesn’t sound like he was very nervous to me.
SLUMAN He wasn’t afraid of anything. The bigger the stage the better for him. I made a comment when I was in pretty good position on the leaderboard that maybe all the guys on tour should take up a collection and offer to send him to grad school or something.
MONTGOMERIE (after he shot 74 to Woods’s bogey-free 65) All I have to say is one brief comment today. There’s no chance humanly possible that Tiger is going to lose this tournament. No way.
When a reporter recalled that Greg Norman in 1996 had lost a six-stroke, final-round lead to Faldo, Montgomerie snorted: “Faldo’s not lying second, for a start. And Greg Norman’s not Tiger Woods.”
As they had since the tournament started, Woods and his college buddies went to Arby’s. Then they played basketball and table tennis.
The Final Round
Late the next morning, Woods donned what would become his trademark Sunday colors: a blood red sweater and black pants. Before he left for the course, Woods ascended the stairs and entered the bedroom of his father, Earl, who had recently undergone surgery for his ailing heart.
“Son,” Earl said when he saw Tiger, “this is probably going to be one of the toughest rounds you’ve ever had to play in your life.”
The day carried a weight, and when Woods arrived at the course, a visitor found him. It was Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play the Masters, in 1975. Elder got a speeding ticket on the drive to Augusta. An honorary starter at the 2021 Masters seven months before he died, Elder told reporters in 1997: “Nothing was going to stop me from getting here. I made history here, and I came here today to see more history made. After today, no one will turn their head when a Black man walks to the first tee.”
Henry Ashley, the headwaiter at Augusta National and one of about 20 Black club employees who lined the plantation-style clubhouse balcony to catch a glimpse of Woods on the first tee, told The Greensboro News and Record: “Tiger’s the man, period. He’s your man; he’s my man.”
After Woods thundered a tee shot toward the first fairway, the congregation of club employees remained on the balcony to watch him walk onto the course. As Woods disappeared over a distant hill, the employees, one by one, turned and walked through a single thin door frame to continue their clubhouse duties.
LANGER I don’t know all about American history. But there were a lot of scenes like that in 1997. You know, seeing Tiger win the Masters, I think, in effect, said, “You can do what I’m doing.” I’m convinced it had an impact on future generations that were not white.
COSTANTINO ROCCA (accompanied Woods on Sunday) The mood was festive, like a celebration or a big party. I’m not sure the crowd even knew there was a little Italian guy playing with him. The atmosphere was powerful.
KITE Because the final round of the Masters has seen many historic collapses, nobody was conceding Tiger the title — even if he would have had to collapse like crazy to be caught. But there was still a wait-and-see attitude.
ROCCA I did cut his lead by a stroke after the first seven holes when Tiger made a couple bogeys. Then he hit his tee shot on No. 8 into the trees and I thought maybe there’s some chance. What if I make birdie and he makes double bogey? Instead, I made par and he made birdie.
KITE It was case closed.
SLUMAN From there, a coronation.
NANTZ I talked briefly to Lee [Elder]. There was emotion in his eyes. And fatigue.
ROCCA (tied for fifth) On the last nine holes, the crowd was getting crazier and crazier, and at one point Tiger turned to me and asked if I was OK. He’s a nice guy, and I was proud of him.
NANTZ I kept thinking about how much this moment meant to so many people. It transcended the sport, and seeing Lee Elder was a visual cue to me.
As Woods, his baggy pants flapping in the wind, sank a last putt to set 20 Masters records, including youngest winner and largest margin of victory (12 strokes), Nantz said, “There it is, a win for the ages.”
Why Stephen Curry will host ESPN’s ESPYS Awards
NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry is hosting the ESPN ESPYS Awards next month, and “never imagined he would “have the privilege of hosting this special event.”
Warriors star Stephen Curry will continue to be in the spotlight as he hosts ESPN’s annual ESPYS awards on July 20 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The 34-year-old is not only a contender for Best NBA Player, but he’s also a finalist for Best Male Athlete alongside Aaron Rodgers, Shohei Ohtani and Connor McDavid. Curry was also nominated for Best Record-Breaking Performance for overcoming Ray Allen for the most made three-pointers in the history of the NBA.
The ceremony comes a month after Golden State’s seventh NBA championship title, which is also their fourth in eight years.
What are the ESPYS Awards?
The ESPYS Awards, which stand for ‘Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly’, is an accolade to recognize individual and team athletic achievement and sports-related performance during the calendar year before a given annual ceremony.
The awards help raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by basketball coach Jim Valvano and ESPN back in 1993. Over the past 29 years, ESPN has helped raise more than $165 million for the foundation.
Who will be honored at the ESPYS Awards 2022?
The nominees for the event have already been announced with the best NBA player including Curry, Nikola Jokić, the Denver Nuggets center, Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers center and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Dončić.
ESPN Executive Editor-At-Large Rob King explained in a statement why Curry is the chosen presenter this year. “Steph has long been one of the brightest stars in the sports constellation, and we’re thrilled to have him share his passion for sports, his wit and his boundless talent with The ESPYS. Whether shining on the court, engaging with fans on social platforms or demonstrating a commitment to communities through varied philanthropic acts, he’s a singular performer who’ll undoubtedly add luster to our celebration of some of this year’s most compelling moments.”
In addition to the NBA awards, former heavyweight boxing champion and mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko will also be honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Retired Army Command Sergeant Major Gretchen Evans, who is also an author and athlete, will be honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service presented by MassMutual. And last but not least, the college basketball legend, broadcaster and hall-of-famer Dick Vitale will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
Martina Navratilova reacts to Rafael Nadal tying her Wimbledon record
Former nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova congratulated Rafael Nadal on tying her for the most wins at The All England Club. On Tuesday, Nadal started his Wimbledon campaign with a 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 victory over Francisco Cerundolo.
Following his latest victory, Nadal now has 306 wins at The All England Club. With that, Nadal is tied on the fourth place with the great Navratilova. Navratilova congratulated Nadal and added the Spaniard will certainly clinch many more wins at Wimbledon.
“Congrats Rafa, and you are not done yet,” Navratilova tweeted.
Congrats Rafa:), and you are not done yet!!!:) https://t.co/uSblCtOX9s
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) June 28, 2022
Nadal survived a tricky opener
Nadal, 36, was playing his first official match on grass since 2019.
Nadal entered the Cerundolo match as the absolute favorite but the Argentine put up a strong resistance and had a shot at sending the match into a fifth set. In the fourth set, Cerundolo had a 4-2 lead before Nadal stormed back to win four games in a row and complete a four-set win.
“It’s not a surface that we play very often, and especially in my case, for different reasons, as I said the past three years I didn’t put any foot on a grass court, so it always takes a while,” Nadal said.
“It was my first match and as I know, every day is a test and today was one of these important tests. I know at the beginning of the tournament especially, under the circumstances that I arrived here, the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practise tomorrow again and to have another match in two days.
I’m happy for that, without a doubt.” In the Wimbledon second round, Nadal faces Ricardas Berankis. Nadal was projected to meet Sam Querrey in the second round but the 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist suffered a surprise loss to Berankis.
Nadal defeated Berankis earlier this year at the Melbourne Summer Set and now he is the absolute favorite to win again.
Iga Swiatek: “Rafael Nadal is extraordinary”
Iga Swiatek will open the Wimbledon Center Court on Tuesday, replacing the now retired and former Championships winner Ashleigh Barty. She is referred to by everyone as the big favorite of the tournament, but the Pole has never made it past the Round of 16 in London and is not as clearly at an advantage (as she is on clay-court).
Swiatek comes from 35 consecutive victories and there is great curiosity about her debut on the Chirch Road lawns. In the traditional presentation press conference, Iga shared her impressions in view of the tournament. Here are his statements: “There was a lot of discussion about who was to open the central court on Tuesday, but the reality is that we certainly didn’t ask for it.
Certainly, however, it is a great satisfaction, several legends of this sport have had this privilege. Big favorite? It’s a difficult matter and honestly I need time to pick up the pace on this surface, we will see match after match.
This year I only played ten days on grass and that’s not much. I didn’t have much time to prepare and now I’m just trying to have a positive mind. The few matches of this period? Well, I didn’t have any physical problems, but I think that after such an intense season so far I needed to rest.
It wasn’t easy to play all these tournaments in a row and I think this rest is the right choice.”
Iga Swiatek on Rafael Nadal
Then the young Polish girl continued: “Pressure from being number one? Honestly, everything is normal for me.
Maybe it seems strange to me just to say that I’m number one, but day after day I got used to it. Rafael Nadal? It is incredible what he does, I have seen the Australian Open final live and I have been able to see all the work he does to stay competitive at the highest level.
Sometimes, even if she’s not playing the best tennis, he can pull himself out of tough situations. Rafael Nadal is a great inspiration for me and the way he deals with injuries is also extraordinary for me. ”
Wimbledon: Djokovic rallies support for jailed Becker’s family
Novak Djokovic said the family of jailed former coach Boris Becker “can always count on me” after he invited the tennis great’s girlfriend and son to watch him at Wimbledon.
Lily de Carvalho and the fallen star’s son Noah were in Djokovic’s player box on Centre Court for his second-round win yesterday.
“Of course, it breaks my heart to see what’s happening to him,” said Djokovic. “I can only imagine how hard it is for his family members.
“So, this is a little gesture of friendship to invite them. He knows and they know that they can always count on me for whatever support or help I can provide.”
Becker was jailed for two and a half years earlier this year following charges relating to a 2017 bankruptcy case.
The six-time Grand Slam title winner coached Djokovic for three years until the end of 2016.
In that time, they won six majors, a run which included reaching a career Grand Slam when Djokovic claimed the first of his two French Opens in 2016.
“Noah and his younger brother Elias are going to visit Boris in the next few days for the first time since he went to prison,” added Djokovic. “I’ve just been trying to give support to people around him, his closest people, his family members, because I consider Boris really a family member, someone that I greatly appreciate, respect, and care about.”
Yesterday , Djokovic reached the Wimbledon third round for the 16th time as he eased past 79th -ranked Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
Four Days That Changed Golf
Why Stephen Curry will host ESPN’s ESPYS Awards
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