Rory McIlroy holds off Tiger to win Honda Classic

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Rory McIlroy holds off Tiger to win Honda Classic

From Comcast SportsNet
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- Rory McIlroy, the new No. 1 player in golf, is not easily rattled. He didn't see a scoreboard in the final round of the Honda Classic until he walked onto the eighth green, looked at the large video screen to his left and saw that Tiger Woods -- who started the day nine shots behind -- already was tied for fourth, four shots behind. McIlroy buried a 10-foot putt for his first birdie of the day. The pressure of trying to win and reach No. 1 in the world didn't really hit him until he was lining up a putt on the 13th green at PGA National, his concentration shattered by a cheer that could be heard a mile away from the 18th green. It was so loud that McIlroy not only knew what it was for -- an eagle on the 18th green -- but who it was for. Tiger Woods. "I wasn't really paying much attention until he made that eagle on 18," McIlroy said. "I heard the huge roar. And it definitely wasn't a birdie roar. That's when I knew that he probably got to 10." That would be 10-under par for Woods, courtesy of a 62, his lowest score ever in a final round in his 15 years on tour. The birdie-eagle finish, just like the Tiger Woods of old, pulled him within one shot of the lead. McIlroy still faced the scariest stretch of golf at PGA National, with water in play on every shot over the last four holes. What followed was a clutch performance worthy of the new No. 1. McIlroy made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th to restore a two-shot cushion. Standing some 65 feet away, in grass so deep he could barely see the golf ball, he gouged out a wedge to 4 feet for a par he badly needed to keep momentum. On the two par 3s over the water, Nos. 15 and 17, he splashed out of a bunker toward the water and saved par both times. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland finally played it safe at the end, making par on the last hole for a 1-under 69 that was meaningful in so many ways. It made him the 16th player to be No. 1 in the world, and the second-youngest behind Woods, who was 21 when he first reached No. 1 after the 1997 U.S. Open. It was his fifth career win, three of those on the PGA Tour, which includes his record-setting performance last year at Congressional to win the U.S. Open, and a 62 in the final round to win at Quail Hollow. And he won despite Woods, that red shirt brighter than it has been in two years, posting a score that McIlroy didn't think possible in such blustery conditions Sunday. Lee Westwood, whom McIlroy beat in the semifinals of the Match Play Championship a week earlier in Arizona, closed with a 63. Even in such strong company, this day belonged to golf's new No. 1. "It was always a dream of mine to become the world No. 1 and the best player in the world or whatever you want to call it," McIlroy said. "But I didn't know what I would be able to get here this quickly. ... Hopefully, I can hold onto it for a little longer." However long, it sets the tone for a big year in golf -- especially with the Masters a month away. Even in defeat, Woods showed that he is hitting the ball well enough not to be counted out at any time. His 62, which featured two eagles in the final round, was nearly nine shots better than the average score Sunday. "It feels good, because I felt like I was close," Woods said after the 28th runner-up finish of his PGA Tour career, and his best result since he was second at the 2009 Tour championship. "I've been close to shooting this score, or scores like this. And it was just a matter of time before things all fell into place." Tom Gillis birdied the last hole for a 69 and tied Woods for second. Westwood was alone in fourth. The 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th was a big moment for Woods. The eagle on the final moment was a shot under pressure that had not been seen in some time. With a 5-iron from 216 yards, he aimed at a tunnel beneath the grandstand and ripped it, the ball clearing a bunker and settling 8 feet away. "It was a lot of fun out there," Graeme McDowell said. "It was just roars going up all over the golf course. For Rory to go out today with a two-shot lead and have Tiger shoot 62 on him and Westwood shoot 63, it just shows how hard it is to win golf tournaments on any tour in the world, but especially this tour. "This golf season just got a lot more spicy." But it starts with McIlroy, who had been building to this occasion when he would replace Luke Donald at No. 1. Since injuring himself at the PGA Championship trying to hit a 7-iron with a tree root in his way, McIlroy had finished out of the top five only once in 12 tournaments he played. He won the Hong Kong Open, along with an unofficial event against a limited, world-class field at the Shanghai Masters. He was runner-up at the Dunhill Links in Scotland, the Korean Open, the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Match Play. And he won the Honda Classic, finishing at 12-under 268, with two former No. 1 players making a move. "It was a lot more meaningful," McIlroy said. "I think the way I won today was great. I missed a few greens coming in. I was able to get up-and-down. I made a couple of big par saves early, which kept my momentum. It was just one of those days. There was a 62 and a 63 out there, which is unbelievable playing. "I just needed to focus on my game and do what I needed to do," he said. "And thankfully, that's what happened." He hugged his father on the 18th green, posed with the crystal trophy and flashed a No. 1 sign. Before long, he was off to New York to spend a few days with his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, before going to Miami for a World Golf Championship. It will be his first tournament as No. 1, a spot that McIlroy intends to keep as long as he can. "There's very few players as good at him at his age out there winning tournaments," three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said. "There are guys with potential, but he's already delivered. And he has a good balance in his life. He doesn't look like a guy who is going to burn out. He looks like he's going to be here for a while."

With Travis sidelined, Stanford can't slow down surging Oregon Ducks

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AP

With Travis sidelined, Stanford can't slow down surging Oregon Ducks

BOX SCORE

EUGENE, Ore. -- Chris Boucher had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Dylan Ennis scored 15 and No. 11 Oregon rolled to a 69-52 victory over Stanford on Saturday.

With preseason All-America forward Dillon Brooks on the bench and his left leg in a boot to protect a sprained foot, the Ducks (18-2, 7-0 Pac-12) broke a 104-year-old school record with their 16th consecutive win and 38th in a row at home.

Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey each had 11 points for Oregon, which overcame 19 turnovers by shooting 11 of 25 from 3-point range and outrebounding Stanford 40-29.

Marcus Allen had 13 points as the only scorer in double figures for the Cardinal (11-9, 3-5). Stanford went more than eight minutes of the second half without a field goal, shot just 32.3 percent overall (20 of 62) and had two players foul out.

Oregon spotted the Cardinal the first five points and then hit four straight 3-pointers in taking a 16-7 lead. The margin grew to 20 late in the half as the Ducks went 8 of 17 beyond the arc and 14 of 26 (53.8 percent) overall.

Stanford, meanwhile, went the last five minutes of the half without a field goal and trailed 40-22.

The Ducks, who led by as many as 25 late in the game, have won their last six games by an average of 24.3 points.

BIG PICTURE

Stanford hasn't swept a conference road trip since 2010. The Cardinal hope to have leading scorer Reid Travis (16.6 ppg) back from a shoulder injury in time for a visit to California in eight days.

Oregon finishes the first half of the Pac-12 season next week at Utah and Colorado, a road trip it hasn't swept in four tries since the Utes and Buffaloes joined the conference in 2011.

UP NEXT

Stanford, now 0-6 against ranked teams, hits the Pac-12 midpoint at California on Jan. 29.

Oregon goes for its first 8-0 start to conference play in 91 years at Utah on Thursday. The Ducks finished 10-0 in the Pacific Coast Conference in 1925-26.

Ex-Warrior rips Thunder for not defending Westbrook after Pachulia incident

Ex-Warrior rips Thunder for not defending Westbrook after Pachulia incident

Late in the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Thunder, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia made hard contact with Russell Westbrook, sending the Oklahoma City star sprawling to the ground.

The referees reviewed the play and gave Pachulia a flagrant foul.

Replays show Pachulia appearing to stand over Westbrook and none of his Thunder teammates coming to his defense.

Raja Bell, a 12-year NBA veteran who was briefly a Warrior during the 2009-10 season, was not happy with the reaction of the Thunder players.

"You are supposed to come flying across the court. You don't have to punch him, because that's a lot of money. But he should catch a forearm across his shoulder, a shove in the back, you ain't gonna knock down Russell Westbrook, the everything to the team I'm playing on, who feeds me, who makes me better, you ain't gonna do that and just stand over him and ice grill him. Not a chance," Bell said on Thursday during the NBA Crossover show on CBS Sports.

The incident started a war of words between Westbrook a Pachulia following the game.

"I don't know. He hit me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said when asked about what happened on the play.

He was then asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him.

"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.

Pachulia responded to Westbrook's comments moments later.

"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments.

"That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.