Rory McIlroy won't back down from speaking out
AKRON, Ohio -- We like for our sports stars to be honest, and when they are, often times they are criticized for their frank comments.
Hence, many revert to giving the canned answers, and it goes back to wishing they were more forthcoming.
Wednesday Rory McIlroy was asked an innocent question about taking up PGA Tour membership next year. It is a subject he has addressed repeatedly since late in 2010, when he surprisingly decided to rescind his membership for this year, leading to plenty of conversation on both sides of the Atlantic.
McIlroy, who had discussed a wide-range of topics already upon his first visit back in the States following his U.S. Open victory, could have easily dodged his way around the query or simply said nothing has changed.
Instead, he was honest, which will clearly lead to more questions over the coming days and weeks.
"I'm leaning towards taking my card up again definitely," he said. "I feel as if I play my golf over here. I'm very comfortable in this country. I'm going to look at a few houses down in Florida after the PGA. I'm definitely looking towards coming back and playing a full schedule over here."
Well, well. There has been plenty of consternation of McIlroy's decision late last year to rescind his membership then to skip the Players Championship. Just as there will likely be to come back and take it up again.
Whatever your take on the issue, it is nice to see McIlroy take on the questions and answer them truthfully, even if it sometimes causes him some problems -- such as last month at Royal St. George's when he complained about the weather and that his game was suited more for 80 degrees.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with speaking your mind," McIlroy said. "It's tough because different people have different opinions. Speaking your mind creates conversation and as long as you're willing to accept the criticism that comes with that, then that's fine.
"I'm always very honest in interviews and I'm always trying to give good answers."
McIlroy gave honest answers in the aftermath of his tie for 25th at Royal St. George's and got burned. Saying that he didn't want to adapt his game to the conditions of an Open venue didn't go over very well, given that McIlroy is expected to contend for numerous major titles.
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Last week at the Irish Open, he ran into some uncomfortable moments after a Twitter spat with an on-course reporter who questioned his course management. McIlroy might have been better off to avoid Twitter in that circumstance, but it is hard to blame him if he felt a need to defend himself.
"I think the comments after the Open Championship ... I was very frustrated," he said. "I was frustrated with how my weekend went. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have said something a little different. It was just the way I was feeling at that point.
"And what happened in Ireland last week, the whole Twitter thing was unfortunate. I was just off the course after making a double bogey, having lunch, going through Twitter, seeing a couple of comments, and I just responded to them. That's the world we live in these days, everything is instant. I'll maybe think about things a little more carefully next time.
"It won't stop me from tweeting or speaking my mind."
Clarke and the PGA Tour
By winning the British Open last month, Darren Clarke put himself in position to take up membership on the PGA Tour (he was a tour member from 2003 to 2006), but not surprisingly, appears content to play a majority of his golf on the European Tour.
Clarke, 42, did not rule out PGA Tour membership starting in 2012 but it is clear the idea is a long shot.
"The whole thing about being a member is so you can participate in the FedEx [Cup] at the end of the year," he said. "Playing in the FedEx is not really something that would get my attention. It's wonderful that they've got it over here, but I've got other commitments, and my home is in Europe now.
"I really enjoy coming over here and playing. It's a wonderful place to play with some of the best tournaments and best guys in the world, but joining that commitment of 15 tournaments right now for me ... I'm 42, I've been there, done that, been a member before."
Clarke cited his move back to Portrush in Northern Ireland and spending time with his sons as big considerations.
"It's something that [agent] Chubby [Chandler] and I need to sit down and take a look at carefully and see if it could work," he said. "And if it could work, then there's a decision to be made."
Paddy's coaching change
Torrance, 79, has worked with Harrington for 15 years, and the father to former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance has a reputation for helping some of Europe's finest.
Harrington, who turns 40 next month, decided Saturday, after missing the cut at the Irish Open -- his sixth missed cut of the year -- he would, at least temporarily, part ways with Torrance while he tried to sort out issues in his game.
The Irishman won three major championships over the course of two years and rose to No. 3 in the world, then inexplicably kept making changes to his swing. At the time, he was given the benefit of the doubt, but given a dearth of victories since, it appears the constant tinkering has hurt rather than helped as Harrington has slipped outside of the top 60 in the world.
Torrance told Irish media last week that Harrington "has been going down one road and I think it is the wrong one and he is determined to go down that road.
"I said to him, if you go down too far, you won't come back. You cannot make changes at 40 in golf. You can make them when you are in your 20s, but once you get to 40, it's too late."
Torrance simply said he is disappointed by the developments, but both said they did not rule out getting back together.
what the realistic expectations for Tiger Woods should be this week at the Bridgestone Invitational. Woods sounded surprisingly upbeat and chipper about the state of his game and his health, but is it too much to expect him to compete and contend at Firestone? Probably.
Perhaps it is best to see him complete 72 holes without pain, and to watch him hit solid golf shots. It is difficult to envision Woods putting together the numbers to score so well, especially given his lack of activity over the past four months.
How much has he been able to work on his short game, his bunker play, his putting? Those are aspects of his game that have been lacking even when healthy, and it's a lot to ask for all of this to come together in such a short time.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
Birdies And Bogeys
1. Scott Stallings. The PGA Tour rookie came up clutch on the back nine at the Greenbrier, including twice birdieing the 18th hole for his first PGA Tour victory.
2. Yani Tseng. Tseng, 22, is the youngest player to five major victories after her win at the Ricoh Women's British Open at Carnoustie.
3. Olin Browne. A longtime grinder on the regular tour, Browne got his first Champions Tour victory at the U.S. Senior Open.
1. Webb Simpson. In contention at the Greenbrier, he needed an eighth-place finish to get into this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. With a back-nine 38, he tied for ninth to miss out on a top 50 spot in the world by percentage points.
2. Carnoustie. The feared Scotland links was anything but during the Ricoh Women's British Open, where they played the 17th hole as a 433-yard par-5.
3. Michelle Wie. It's a bad sign when someone as young as Wie starts messing with a long putter -- as has been the case the last two weeks.
• Scott Stallings' victory at the Greenbrier Classic is an example of how winning brings so many perks. That victory gets him in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (he was headed to Reno-Tahoe), as well as next week's PGA Championship, the HSBC Champions in China, the Hyundai Championship, Masters and Players Championship.
• Ernie Els is on the outside looking in as far as the FedEx Cup is concerned. He is 132nd in points and needs to be in the top 125 to qualify for the first playoff event in three weeks. He has a lot of work to do to get to the Tour Championship, on which he's one of five players -- along with Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker -- to make it every year since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.
• Damon Green, who caddies full time for Zach Johnson, had an impressive vacation, qualifying for the Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath and the U.S. Senior Open. He made the cut in both, tying for 13th last week at Inverness.
• Trevor Immelman tied for 14th at the Greenbrier and, while injury-plagued, has yet to post a top-10 on the PGA Tour since his 2008 Masters victory.
• Lexi Thompson won her first stage LPGA qualifier by 10 strokes, but all that does is get her into the second of three stages. Still, it appears she has plenty of game to get her card.
• Hale Irwin didn't win the U.S. Senior Open, but he did shoot his age, 66, during the third round and tied for fourth at Inverness, 32 years after winning the second of his three U.S. Opens at the same venue.
• Somewhat lost in everything that surrounds Tiger Woods is that last year was the first time since the start of the WGC events in 1999 that he failed to win one. Wood has 16 WGC titles, including six at Firestone.
"Similar build, similar color, similar stature.'' -- Darren Clarke, when asked what had made the friendship between him and Tiger Woods.
Catching up with '10 champ
Hunter Mahan captured his third PGA Tour title at last year's Bridgestone Invitational, coming from three strokes behind with a final-round 64. It was his second victory of the year and helped him finish 10th on the final PGA Tour money list.
This year's season has been somewhat frustrating for Mahan, who has seven top-10 finishes, but none since the Colonial in May. Particularly frustrating for Mahan is that he has missed the cut in all three major championships so far this year.
He has earned more than $2.2 million and ranks 22nd in the FedEx Cup standings.