Rory's Back, But Tiger Backs Out
By Torleif Sorenson on 8/3/14

Number 1 with a bullet

The "Holywood Matinee Idol" has his name in lights again.

And while the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational is not a major championship per se, it is an exceptionally important limited-field event played over one of the toughest parkland-style courses in North America. But in winning his second straight start, Rory McIlroy had to do this one in come-from-behind fashion.

That is because on Friday and Saturday, Sergio García was the big news. The talented Spaniard, who finished second to McIlroy at the Open Championship, looked as if he was ready to return the favor. He got there with a Thursday 68 and a Saturday 67.

But it was his second-nine performance on Friday that dazzled the field and the tournament patrons:

That was seven birdies on the final seven holes, a closing nine 27, and a total of 61.

García held a three-shot lead on Saturday evening, but on Sunday, the magic was gone. He simply could not generate any momentum; a wayward tee-shot at the 3rd hole (more about which below) cost him a bogey, although a 14-foot birdie putt at the 9th left brought him back to level par heading to the closing nine. But there were no more birdies to be had for García, only a disappointing bogey at the par-3 15th.

Afterward, García told reporters that he did not putt well because he did not feel comfortable on the greens — in stark contrast to the elation he clearly felt Friday night.

McIlroy, in the meantime, roared out of the gate with birdies on the first three holes, followed by another at the par-3 5th. When you're hitting recovery shots like this...

...not much will stop you. Following the weather delay late Saturday, McIlroy birdied his final two holes, and then the birdie above was one of four on the first five holes on Sunday. At that point, McIlroy had a two-shot lead — one he would not relinquish.

Shortly after sinking the winning putt, McIlroy told CBS on-course reporter David Feherty that he wanted to avoid a letdown following his Open Championship victory two weeks ago. Now, with his first win in a World Golf Championships event, McIlroy also regains the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings — and this time, we predict that he will be in that spot for awhile.

Tiger's back's out, so Tiger backs out

Over the first three days, Tiger Woods shot 68-71-72. On Saturday night, Woods's biggest complaint was about his old driver from last year, which he put back in play because of weightlifting. The old driver has a lighter shaft:
"I figured the lighter shaft should help me out a little bit, get some speed back, because I'm just not quite as explosive as I need to be.

"I haven't done any explosive lifting. I haven't done any of my fast-twitch stuff yet. As soon as I start doing my fast-twitch stuff, I can get my speed back up and then I can go back to my old driver."
On Sunday, the only thing exploding for Tiger was his lower back. It occurred when Woods hit his second shot from an awkward lie at the second hole:

Woods soldiered on, but after his tee-shot at the 9th, it was over:

The problem is that we have seen all of this before, just a few months ago — before the Masters Tournament. This writer is convinced that we will not see Woods at the PGA Championship — nor will we see him on the course at the Ryder Cup in Scotland.

Get better, Tiger — perhaps we'll see you in January on the PGA Tour's west coast swing.

Diamond in the rough

One of the other interesting moments at the WGC-Bridgestone occurred when García's tee-shot at the 3rd hole flew awry and struck a female fan on the hand. The impact was so violent that the ball knocked loose the diamond from her engagement ring:

When time became an issue, García was clearly seen and heard on CBS-TV telling bystanders and marshals, "When we're done, can you get me her contact number please?"

At least this story has a happy ending, and some tall, gangly kid became Akron's newest "rock" star.

For Rory McIlroy, this week also had a happy ending. And while we are sure that Sergio García is disappointed to have not won, he has been so very close so many times this year: He finished solo second today, preceded by T-2s at the Open Championship and at the Travelers in Hartford, along with a win at the Qatar Masters and a third at the Players Championship.

If Sergio breaks through and wins the PGA Championship next Sunday at Valhalla, nobody should be surprised.

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