Rory McIlroy holds off Tiger to win Honda Classic


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."

After best start in franchise history, Quakes' rough season ends on low note


After best start in franchise history, Quakes' rough season ends on low note


A San Jose Earthquakes season that began with the best start in franchise history ended on Sunday with an all-too-familiar result and feeling.

A Sporting Kansas City first half penalty shot and 89th minute-goal was more than enough offense to finish the Quakes' season on a low note in what was a 2-0 loss at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City.

The Earthquakes finished the 2016 campaign with an 8-14-12 record -- their 12 losses are tied for second most since returning to San Jose after a two-year hiatus in 2008.

The shutout is also the 12th the Quakes suffered this season and San Jose has now missed the playoffs four straight years.

San Jose pressed Sporting Kansas City in the first half and was almost rewarded with a goal on both occasions.

But it was Kansas City who made the most of their opportunities and those don’t come much better than a penalty shot. 

Benny Feilhaber stepped up to the spot in the 27th minute after an awkward bounce hit Cordell Cato in the arm, forcing the referee to call for the penalty. Feilhaber beat David Bingham to the keeper's left for his seventh goal of the season.

The second half was noteworthy for its chippiness more than any real threat by San Jose to try and equalize. Referee Drew Fischer handed out five yellow cards in the half -- three to the Quakes. 

Sporting KC left the game way beyond reach for San Jose when Feilhaber found a streaking Dominic Dwyer on the right side who emphatically finished past Bingham for the 2-0 result. 

Man of the Match: Feilhaber gave San Jose fits the entire match and the Quakes had no answers for the midfielder. Feilhaber and Dwyer almost connected on a couple of other occasions that might have made the result worse for the Quakes. 

Attendance: 20,371 watched Sporting KC advance to the MLS Cup playoffs. 

Up Next: It's back to the drawing board for the Quakes who will reconvene in Tucson next season for preseason camp. 

Draymond: Hate 'comes with the territory'

Draymond: Hate 'comes with the territory'

OAKLAND – As the hours and minutes toward opening night tick down for the Warriors, forward Draymond Green has an idea of what’s coming this season.

Constant surveillance, plenty of opinions and a lot of debate are in store.

And in the wake of signing megastar free agent Kevin Durant, Green and the Warriors can expect plenty of resentment.

“Usually, when you’re doing something the right way, people hate,” Green said after practice Sunday. “And, usually, when you’re doing something someone wants to do, they hate. Usually when there is success, with success comes hate. So that kind of just comes with the territory. It really doesn’t matter.

“KD being here definitely adds to that. But with the success we’ve had, people are going to hate us anyway. That comes with the territory.”

Though Durant is certain to be targeted for boos, Green also will hear his share. NBA fans generally cast a few players as villains, and Green moved snugly into that role last season with his kick to the groin of Oklahoma City center Steven Adams, followed by throwing a jab to the groin area of Cleveland star LeBron James.

The mini-skirmish with James, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, landed Green on the suspended list at a critical time: Game 5.

The incident also affixed Green’s photo to the wall featuring NBA road rascals, right up there with the likes of Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins, Metta World Peace and, at various times, Kobe Bryant.

Because Green is in that role and Durant, at least for now, is the subject of so much unfavorable scrutiny, there is a sharper edge to the identity of the Warriors.

“Some people say we’re villains,” Green said. “I don’t think we’re really going into this saying, ‘Hey, we’re villains. We need to do this.’ ‘Who . . . cares?’ It really doesn’t matter what role people try to make you play. It’s about getting on the court, getting between these lines and performing.

“What everybody else draws up and tries to make you out to be . . . they can make you out to be whatever they want. If you’re winning games, or not winning games, that’s what matters. I don’t think this team is looking and saying, ‘Hey, we’re villains. Let’s do it.’ Nobody cares.”

Green was the subject of a much-publicized magazine article that depicted him as a source of unrest among this teammates and coaches. He’s acutely aware of the characterization and realizes he must walk a fine line or risk puncturing team chemistry.

He’ll accept being the villain, and perhaps even embrace the booing. Only Steph Curry among the Warriors shares Green’s profound delight in silencing arenas on the road.

“This is about getting between these lines and performing,” Green said. “Everything else outside of that, it really doesn’t matter. Things are going to be said. Some things are not going to be said. But when it’s all said and done, the only thing people are going to talk about at the end is whether you won or lost.