Rory McIlroy aiming to end win drought at Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy fired a closing 68 in last weekend’s Genesis Open

Rory McIlroy believes he is close to securing a first win since September 2016 as he prepares to play in this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach.

McIlroy, 28, won the tournament in 2012, walked off the Florida course in 2013 and lost in a play-off in 2014.

He missed the cut in 2015 and 2016 but is “happy with where his game is at”.

“Feast or famine – that’s what my history’s been here. It’s a tough golf course and it magnifies if your game’s off just a touch,” said McIlroy.

“If you miss it by tiny margins here it can punish you quite heavily. But if you’re on it gives you opportunities to score.”

The four-time major winner’s success at the PGA National course six years ago saw him become world number one for the first time.

McIlroy walked off the course 12 months later during the defence of his title, initially telling reporters he was “in a bad place mentally” and then issuing a statement citing severe toothache as the reason for withdrawing.

He had played his first eight holes in seven over par but later admitted that was “no excuse” for quitting as he struggled to get to grips with his new equipment following his multi-million dollar deal with Nike.

The following year McIlroy looked on course to make amends in style when he opened with rounds of 63 and 66, only to card a closing 74 and eventually lose out in a play-off to Russell Henley.

So far in 2018 the Northern Irishman has tied for third, finished second, missed a cut and tied for 20th as he builds up to the first major of the year at Augusta National in April.

The world number 10 needs to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam and make it a hat-trick of European winners.

“Obviously last year Sergio (Garcia) had won a tournament beforehand, Danny Willett the year before had won a tournament, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday.

“To get a win under your belt going into it does make you feel a bit better but you don’t have to. I feel like that’s putting yourself under an awful lot of pressure.

“I’m close. I think positive thoughts and I’m very happy with where my game’s at. I feel like I’m just waiting for everything to sort of fit together.

“I feel like I’ve seen enough good things in my game over the past few weeks to know that it’s not far away.”

Westwood joins Rumford at the top of Perth’s World Super 6

Former world No.1 Lee Westwood has blown into the lead at the World Super 6 Perth, but a late blip kept him neck-and-neck with defending champion Brett Rumford.

Westwood shot a two-under 70 in tricky winds on Friday to move to eight-under overall, alongside Rumford.

Perfect conditions greeted the field in round one but blustery winds on Friday meant it was much tougher to make a dent on the scorecard.

Rumford shot an eight-under 64 in round one but had to settle for an even-par 72 on Friday.

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Westwood was on track to take the overall lead heading into round three before his short putt on the 18th hole rolled just wide.

Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen, Victorian Lucas Herbert and Thai Prom Meesawat are tied for second at seven-under.

Amateur Min Woo Lee is at five-under.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (five-under) briefly shot to the lead on Friday before four-straight bogeys on his back nine saw him drop back to the pack.

England’s 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett missed the cut after finishing a disastrous seven-over, while countryman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston (five-over) will also miss the weekend.

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Rumford, a hometown hero, said the conditions on Friday were as tough as he had ever seen them at Lake Karrinyup.

“It was right from the word go. It just hit you on the first tee. It was ‘bang’ straight in the face,” Rumford said.

“Every single hole looked differently to yesterday. You couldn’t really go out and chase it today.”

Only the top 24 players will qualify for the final-round match play component, when golfers will go head-to-head in a series of six-hole shootouts.

The top eight players entering the final day earn a crucial bye in the first round of match play.

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Westwood said his main priority is to finish in the top 24, rather than put pressure on himself to get a top-eight seeding.

And he said the match play component made it hard to predict who will come out on top.

“You’re going to need a lot of luck,” he said.

“I think it’s exciting for the fans and the format of the game. Golf needs something like that.

“It’s very do or die over the first couple of holes of match play.”

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, World Super 6 Perth, Boca Raton Championship

From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The PGA TOUR shifts to the Monterey Peninsula for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The current top-three players in the world: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth (defending champion) lead the field of professionals who will be joined by celebrity amateur golfers including Carson Daly, Tony Romo, Toby Keith, Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Verlander. The European Tour will stage the second edition of the World Super 6 Perth. The PGA TOUR Champions are in south Florida for the Boca Raton Championship, with Bernhard Langer and defending champion Scott McCarron leading the field.

PGA TOUR

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Dates: Feb. 8-11

Venues: Pebble Beach Golf Links; Spyglass Hill Golf Course; Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Pebble Beach, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)

Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-9 p.m. (Replay)

Friday             3-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-9 p.m. (Replay)

Saturday          2-3:30 p.m. (Live) / 8-10 p.m. (Replay)

Sunday            1-2:45 p.m. (Live) / 7:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on CBS (Eastern)

Saturday          4-7 p.m.

Sunday            3-6:30 p.m.

Broadcast Notes:

Course rotation & format: The field of 156 professionals and 156 amateurs will play one round at each of the three course venues over the first three days. The top-60 professionals (and ties) along with the top-25 pro-am teams after 54 holes will advance to the final round at Pebble Beach.

Spieth defends: Jordan Spieth finished four shots clear of the field to earn his ninth PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Patrick Cantlay, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.

EUROPEAN TOUR

World Super 6 Perth

Dates: Feb. 8-11

Venue: Lake Karrinyup Country Club, Perth, Australia

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)

Wednesday     11 p.m.-4 a.m. (Live, Wednesday overnight)

Thursday         11 p.m.-4 a.m. (Live, Thursday overnight)

Friday             11 p.m.-4 a.m. (Live, Friday overnight)

Saturday          10 p.m.-4 a.m. (Live, Saturday overnight)

Broadcast Notes:

Rumford defends: Brett Rumford defeated Phachara Khongwatmai 2&1 to claim his sixth European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Lee Westwood, Danny Willett, Thorbjorn Olesen, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Brett Rumford, David Lipsky and Chase Koepka.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Boca Raton Championship

Dates: Feb. 9-11

Venue: Broken Sound Club (Old Course), Boca Raton, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)

Friday             Noon-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Saturday replay)

Saturday          3:30-5:30 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 p.m. (Sunday replay)

Sunday            3-5 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-2:30 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:

McCarron defends: Scott McCarron finished one shot ahead of Kenny Perry and Carlos Franco to win his third title on the PGA TOUR Champions.

Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Scott McCarron, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Kevin Sutherland, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, John Daly and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Brett Rumford sizzles at Perth’s World Super 6

Brett Rumford’s love affair with Perth’s World Super 6 golf event continues, with the Australian taking out round-one honours at the innovative tournament.

Rumford, the defending champion, will enter round two as the man to catch after shooting an eight-under par 64 on Thursday, two shots ahead of former world No.1 Lee Westwood.

Victorian James Nitties joined Westwood at six-under.

Rumford led the World Super 6 Perth from start to finish last year, dominating in the opening three rounds of stroke play before blitzing the field in the final-round match play format.

The 40-year-old picked up where he left off on Thursday morning, making 10 birdies and just two bogeys in a sizzling round.

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“There seems to be some sort of home-course advantage,” Rumford said.

“I just think some golf courses suit your eye and others don’t.

“Generally you’ll find as a trend that a lot of players go back to the same venue and play well and this is one of them for me.”

West Australian Jason Scrivener shot a promising five-under 67 to be tied for fourth in a big group also featuring world No.53. Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat and South Australian Wade Ormsby.

Cult hero Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston finished one-over after dropping five shots on the par-four second.

One-time major winner Danny Willett faces a huge battle to make the cut after finishing four-over 76.

After three rounds of traditional stroke play, the top 24 players will qualify for the final-round match play component, where they go head-to-head in a series of six-hole shootouts.

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Rumford said his early lead meant little, with the top 24 the goal.

The top eight players after three rounds earn a bye in the first stage of match play.

Westwood, who missed the cut in his first two tournaments of the year before finishing tied for 11th in Malaysia last week, was content with his opening round in Perth.

“I don’t think this is a tournament where you want to be playing catch up really,” he said.

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“You want to get yourself in the mix and try and cruise through the second and third days and get into that top 24.”

Scrivener was happy with his round but felt he could have joined Rumford at eight-under if some things went his way.

“It was a funny day. I got off to a slow start. I saw what Brett was doing up front, which made it feel even worse,” Scrivener said.

“But happy with it. It was as easy as it’s ever going to play out here.”