<
>

Quick 9: The weight on Rory McIlroy's shoulders

Rory McIlroy's workout routine came under fire recently, but the four-time major champ says he's doing all this exercise to prevent possible injury. Chris Condon/Getty Images

1. Heavy lifting

The back problems could be traced to the previous season, but it was two years ago at the Honda Classic where it became a serious issue for Tiger Woods. He withdrew during the final round when his back caused issues. The following week, he limped through the final round at Doral -- and things have never been the same.

As the PGA Tour returns to what is now Woods' "hometown'' event, he is missing the Honda Classic for the second straight year, a third surgery in 19 months keeping him on the sideline with little information about his progress and no clue about when he might return.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy returns to the event near his U.S. base -- where he won in 2012 and lost in a playoff in 2014 -- after defending himself a week ago in Los Angeles over concerns that his workout regimen that includes some heavy weightlifting could lead to injury. And the not-so-subtle comparison was to Woods.

McIlroy said the regimen is used to prevent injury.

"You think of the golf swing and the torque and the load that you're putting on your spine,'' McIlroy said. "The spine does two things: It flexes and it rotates. And it doesn't like to flex and rotate at the same time, which is what a golf swing does. So if anything, the golf swing is way worse for your back than anything I do in the gym.

"So I'm trying to make my back as strong as I possibly can so that when I come out here and swing a golf club at 120 miles an hour, I'm robust enough to take that 200 times a day when I hit shots and when I practice and when I play golf.''

That seems like a fair retort, and you know that McIlroy has access to plenty of excellent counsel in this area.

And that brings us back to Woods, who many believe is in the predicament he is in because he went overboard in the gym. While it is true that Woods loves the weight room, it is unclear if that has had anything to do with his current plight. Maybe it was a contributing factor. Or perhaps it was simply the product of thousands of golf swings.

Go back to Woods' early days, and the force of his golf swing was always a concern. It might be as simple as that.

2. Not always about the workouts

When Rory McIlroy turned pro, he was a bit on the pudgy side, a look that changed as he got accustomed to fitness and health. But apparently McIlroy is fine with slipping on occasion, as he visited a well-known hamburger chain before leaving Los Angeles.

3. Florida swing

The PGA Tour's annual trek through Florida is upon us with the Honda Classic, followed by the first World Golf Championship event of 2016 (the WGC-Cadillac Championship), then the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Florida swing is often viewed as the run-up to the Masters, but it is not necessarily a great gauge as to who will win the first major.

Before Jordan Spieth won the Valspar Championship last year, Woods was the last player (in 2005) to win in Florida before winning at Augusta National. In fact, only four other players besides Woods won anywhere in the months leading up to the Masters, including Phil Mickelson (2006), Charl Schwartzel (2011 in South Africa), Bubba Watson (2014) and Spieth (2015). Only Woods won more than twice before his Masters victory during that run.

4. Turnberry and the Rota

Numerous U.K. media reports in recent months suggested that Turnberry had been dropped from The Open rota due to owner Donald Trump's controversial comments as part of his U.S. presidential run. New R&A chief Martin Slumbers contradicted that this week, saying that Turnberry is part of the 10-course rotation -- which now includes Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. Slumbers said, though, that Turnberry would not get The Open again prior to 2022.

He also acknowledged that The Open is likely to end its five-year cycle of going to St. Andrews -- it dates to 1990 -- and will be staged at a course in England in 2020. The likely landing spot is Royal St. George's, with the Open going to St. Andrews in 2021 for its 150th playing. This year's Open is at Royal Troon, followed by Royal Birkdale in 2017, Carnoustie in 2018 and Royal Portrush in 2019.

5. Advice from the Golden Bear

We wonder if Jack Nicklaus is actually writing the words that appear on his Twitter account -- he writes in the third person a good bit -- but someone in the Golden Bear camp had a good sense of humor when he tweeted to Scotland's Catriona Matthew last week while she competed in Australia, making reference to his 1986 Masters win at age 46.

6. Maybe a blessing

Spieth's opening-round 79 at Riviera was a surprise, but perhaps the result should be viewed as a good thing in the big picture. An extra couple of days to rest and reassess is not a bad thing with a big stretch coming up. This week, plus the one Spieth will have off when he skips the Arnold Palmer Invitational in three weeks, are the only breaks between now and the Masters.

He will play next week at Doral, followed by his title defense at Valspar, then after Palmer's tournament he plays the WGC-Dell Match Play and Houston heading into the Masters. And he's already had a hectic start to 2016 with tournaments in Hawaii (where he won), Abu Dhabi, Singapore and now two in California.

7. Soomin Lee

You might not know much about the South Korean golfer who was on the verge of winning his first European Tour title Sunday at the Maybank Classic in Malaysia. Lee double-bogeyed the 16th hole. And he followed that with another double-bogey at the 18th to lose by 1 shot to Marcus Fraser -- who had not won in six years. Ouch.

8. Traveling with the masses

Blayne Barber summed it nicely for the haves and have-nots in professional golf.

9. Phil on Tiger

Phil Mickelson won nine times on the PGA Tour before Woods turned pro, so Lefty has been around for all of the dominance -- sometimes getting in the way of it. Now he sees the emergence of a slew of young talent -- such as Spieth, McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler -- and feels good about where the game is headed.

But Mickelson -- who has sometimes been at odds with Woods over the years -- sees no comparison with the 14-time major champ at this point.

"There is nobody in the game of golf that I have seen that is remotely close to the level of performance Tiger was in his prime,'' Mickelson said in an interview with Golf.com. "Mentally, short game, or ball striking, I don't think anybody matches him in any of those areas. And Tiger put them all together in one to create a career that is mind-boggling.

"So it's difficult for me to see the game of golf returning to the level that it was at during his heyday without somebody like that. And as great as the young players are, the level that I've seen out of him, especially when you go back to 2000 at the U.S. Open and his performance when he held all four major championships at once, I think we're decades away from anyone getting back to that level.''