Jan 29

Rory McIlroy off to another good start in the Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy can't seem to break through in the United Arab Emirates during the European Tour's early season swing through the country.

Since earning his first pro win in Dubai in 2009, McIlroy has played nine times in Dubai and neighboring Abu Dhabi, finishing outside the top 10 just once and posting three runner-up finishes. It's a record that annoys the world No. 1, who lamented a lack of wins earlier in the week.

The good news for McIlroy on Thursday is he opened the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with 6-under 66. The bad news? He's tied for sixth, two off the lead of Bernd Wiesberger.

“It’s another good start here and something to build on,” McIlroy said. “Not going to grumble about a 66, although you’re not going to get the course any easier.”

McIlroy said he would have been disappointed had he not shot at least 68 at Emirates G.C. That's how strong his game has been dating back to last summer. He won three majors in a row, with a World Golf Championships event sandwiched in between the Open Championship and PGA Championship. Though he hasn't won since hoisting the Wanamaker for the second time in August, he has four runner-up finishes worldwide, including two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.

Recent form and his record in the U.A.E. suggests a top-10 finish is a practical lock. However, walking away with anything less than a win will disappoint McIlroy, and isn't that what a player as dominant as the Ulsterman should feel?

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 29

Paula Creamer makes ace in LPGA opener, does nice shoulder shimmy

Paula Creamer got married in December, and appparently the honeymoon extended into her golf game to start the 2015 LPGA season.

On Thursday at the inaugural Coates Golf Championship, Creamer made a hole-in-one on the par-3 sixth. The hole, which played 162 yards in Round 2, is a replica of the par-3 16th at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. Creamer used a 5-iron to sink the shot.

The highlight doesn't end with the ball going in the hole, however. Creamer did a very nice two-step on the tee box, followed by a subtle shoulder shimmy just before she retrieved her ball from the hole.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 29

Phil Mickelson ‘fired’ by brother as ‘interim assistant’ for Arizona St. golf team

Phil Mickelson is out of a job -- his part-time job.

Mickelson is no longer helping his brother Tim as "interim assistant coach" for his alma mater Arizona State's men's golf program. 

"Yes, I recently got fired from that position," Mickelson said Wednesday at a news conference ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The five-time major winner was in the job two months. It wasn't really a job, however, so much as a title that allowed Mickelson to do some recruiting for the Sun Devil program without attracting unwanted attention from the NCAA.

"We had developed a plan to where I could call some recruits," Mickelson said. "We weren't really going to say anything and hadn't said anything for a few weeks until one of the players had tweeted it and it looked like there were some improprieties, which there weren't, so we had to publicly announce I was assistant coach; otherwise, I wouldn't be able to make the phone calls I had been making."

The player in question is 16-year-old Ryan Ruffels, an American-born amateur living in Australia. Ruffels shared in early November that he had spoken with Mickelson about attending Arizona State. A few days later, Mickelson had a new title in his brother's program.

With the recruiting calls made, Lefty was happy to step aside so a real coach could help his brother and get back to his full-time gig.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 28

Amateur makes ace at famous 16th during Phoenix Open pro-am

Imagine hitting a golf shot with 20,000 people watching you. The nerves would probably be overwhelming, right?

That's what a whole slew of amateurs did on Wednesday when they teed off on the famous par-3 16th hole during the pro-am for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One of them made an ace.

Dave Wood pulled off the rare feat, draining his tee shot after a couple of bounces toward the cup. The large crowd around the hole erupted so loudly that the noise couldn't he mistaken by players elsewhere on the course. Phil Mickelson even remarked at how great of a shot it was after his pro-am round.

To put the accomplishment into perspective, the odds of making an ace are 12,500 to 1 under normal circumstances. In the circus atmosphere of the Phoenix Open, only seven aces have been recorded in tournament play since 1990.

Drinks on Dave!

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 28

Phil Mickelson may have Super Bowl tickets to give away at Phoenix Open

Hey, if you're going to the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week, it might be a good idea to pop on a Callaway Golf hat. Why? You might score Super Bowl tickets from Phil Mickelson.

Of course, we don't know if Mickelson will be trotting around Seahawks-Patriots tickets, but the last time the Super Bowl was in nearby Glendale, Ariz., in 2008 the same weekend as the annual stop at TPC Scottsdale, he made a spectator's day.

Mickelson had landed two tickets to Super Bowl XLII where the Patriots' opponent was the New York Giants. According to the New York Times, Mickelson, who eventually lost in a playoff to J.B. Holmes, decided early on Sunday that he couldn't make it to the game. He commissioned caddie Jim Mackay to find someone who deserved the seats.

Mackay found young Drew Fockler and his dad John on the third tee, with Drew donning Callaway Golf apparel. After getting an enthusiastic response about football from the two, Mackay handed over the tickets. A thank-you note came back to Mickelson from the family.

Who's to say Mickelson has seats again this year, telling the Times he'll wait until his children are older to attend the NFL's championship game again. However, if we had to guess, the man who hands out Benjamins and autographs to people he hits with errant tee shots might have a surprise pair or two for some lucky fans.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 28

Fantasy golf power rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open

The largest and rowdiest crowd in golf convenes upon TPC Scottsdale on Thursday for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In addition to a lot of fans, almost every major American golf star is in the Phoenix area this week, including Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

TPC Scottsdale has been renovated by original architect Tom Weiskopf, playing a little tougher with new challenges and changes. However, winning in Phoenix means going deep, so we're recommending players this week who know how to shoot low numbers.

Here are our top five picks:

  1. Bubba Watson -- Watson faded down the stretch to a T-2 finish here last year and has three top-10 WMPO finishes overall in eight career starts. Looked solid enough at Kapalua.
  2. Jordan Spieth -- Spieth's never played at TPC Scottsdale, so this is a bit of a risk. However, Spieth ended 2015 with two consecutive wins against big-name, albeit small, fields.
  3. Phil Mickelson -- Mickelson is the all-time money leader in this event and was a winner here in 2013, nearly shooting 59 en route to tying a tournament record at TPC Scottsdale. Modest finish at Humana (T-24) was a good indicator.
  4. Brendan Steele -- Steele was one of many runners-up last week at Humana, which only further strengthens our tip this week. Steele has been inside the top six in his last three WMPO starts. He likes the place.
  5. Hunter Mahan -- Mahan won here in 2010 and has been a decent moneymaker in this event since. He'd be great in a one-and-done league this week if you're not using Steele for some reason.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 28

The 19th Hole Golf Show: Filling in the gaps in Robert Allenby’s memory

Some 12 days after Robert Allenby's weird Friday night in Honolulu, we still don't have a clear picture of what happened. However, the Aussie has implored the media to step aside and only let police investigate his story.

Forget that.

Based on the story Allenby told and the accounts of three homeless people who witnessed some aspect of that night, we try to reconstruct the timeline of the night and what really happened to the 43-year-old Aussie in the two-and-a-half-hour stretch he cannot recall.

Was he drugged? Was he robbed? Was he beaten? How'd he wind up back at Amuse Wine Bar? We try to answer all of those questions on this week's "The 19th Hole Golf Show."

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.

Jan 27

Allenby sticks by story, scolds media in bizarre news conference

Robert Allenby convened a news conference on Tuesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, then pretty much used the opportunity to scold the media for trying to fill in the details of a story that two hours of which the Aussie golfer said he cannot recall.

"I became a victim and now it's all been turned around," Allenby said. "I understand how the media works."

The 43-year-old is right: He was a victim, robbed of his credit cards by at least one person, with those cards used to rack up some $25,000 in fraudlent charges. That shouldn't be forgotten. 

However, the details of what precipitated and followed that crime are the subject of conjecture and unclear from the public accounts of at least five people who interacted with Allenby after he missed the cut Jan. 16 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Allenby has remained consistent in his telling, cobbled together from his memory and what homeless woman Charade Keane, who is consistently credited with helping Allenby, shared with him. Here it is: 

Allenby went to Amuse Wine Bar in Waikiki Beach with two friends, including caddie Mick Middlemo, after dinner that Friday night. Middlemo left to go to another establishment, where Allenby and his other friend were to meet. The friend and Allenby got separated. Allenby signed for his check at 10:48 p.m. and left Amuse. As he turned the corner, he remembers getting hit, then waking up in a park. He believes he was taken by up to three assailants into an underground parking garage, beaten, robbed and thrown into the trunk of a car. The golfer said he woke up in a park, 6 miles from the wine bar, to two homeless men kicking him. He then said Keane helped extricate him from the situation with the help of a yet-to-be-identified retired military man and put in a taxi back to his hotel.

On Tuesday, Allenby assessed the time from the crack in the face to waking up in the park as ranging from 11:06 p.m. on Friday to 1:27 a.m. on Saturday.

"From about 11:06 to 1:27 a.m., I have no memory in my brain. I have nothing," Allenby said Tuesday. "I can't tell you how frustrating that is because we all want to know the truth."

Keane has since said she didn't tell Allenby he was thrown from a car and that she didn't find him in a park, but rather around the corner from Amuse Wine Bar. She did concur two homeless men were in an argument with Allenby. She assessed they were agitated and aggressive with him, so she helped him out of the situation.

The two homeless men, Toa Kaili and Chris Khamis, have spoken and said they saw Allenby twice that night. At around 1:30 a.m., the men claim, they saw Allenby passed out near the wine bar and tried to help him gather himself. When Allenby was agitated by the men, Kaili left and Khamis remained. As Khamis was turning to find a cab for Allenby, Khamis said Allenby passed out and injured himself on a lava rock. Khamis added Allenby also told him he had been to a strip club earlier in the night.

Golf Channel has done additional digging into the story, backing up Khamis' claim Allenby had been to a strip club. The reporting also has Allenby in Amuse Wine Bar talking to three people, though it is unclear who those people are and what role, if any, they had in Allenby losing his credit cards.

For his part, Allenby said he doesn't know the people he saw in security-camera footage.

"I never met them in my life," he said. "I only saw them on surveillance."

Those people are the most important related to the case. They likely hold all the details to round out what happened to Allenby and in figuring out who should be charged with a robbery.

If the three people in question, or someone else, drugged Allenby as he believes, the golfer isn't saying. He did admit at the end of his news conference that he did take a drug test, but would not reveal the results.

From start to finish, Allenby was visibly angry that any media member doubted his story or did additional digging into it.

"The media have decided that they are the most amazing experts at investigations," he said. "There's a reason why detectives in Honolulu are some of the best in the world. I'd really appreciate it if maybe we can let them do their job."

Allenby said he expects something will be reported soon on what the police have found. In the meantime, Allenby will tee it up this week at TPC Scottsdale, potentially subjecting himself to a barrage of hecklers who are likely as skeptical of aspects of his story as the media the golfer wagged his finger at on Tuesday. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 27

Tiger talks missing tooth, rediscovered power ahead of Phoenix Open

Tiger Woods' missing tooth is back and so, he says, is his distance. The combination had the former world No. 1 and current No. 47 in a good mood on Tuesday ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. 

Woods talked about the dental surgery he had to repair a pair of teeth he said were damaged by a cameraman when he traveled to Italy a week ago to surprise girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as she celebrated her record 63rd women's World Cup downhill skiing win.

"The dude with video camera on shoulder kneeling right in front of me stood up and turned and caught me square in the mouth," Woods said. "He chipped that one, cracked the other one. ... Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on. That's the one that chipped. But the other one had to be fixed as well because it had cracks all through it."

The flight home from Italy, Woods said, was painful.

"Even breathing hurt," he said. "I had to fly home and get it done first thing in the morning, which was nice."

Woods also looked more svelte than the last time we saw him at the Hero World Challenge back in December. That's thanks to the flu, which Woods said he dealt with for three weeks after the tournament, where he was visibly sick. He lost 15 lbs in that span and hasn't put much of it back on his frame.

While Woods had a little work done to have a complete set of pearly whites, he was doing a little work to his short game, which was astonishingly bad back in December. Woods mishit some nine chip or bunker shots during the limited-field event. In that time, Woods said he's hit "thousands of chips" shots, trying to settle on his new technique rather than falling back into the method he used when working with Sean Foley.

Woods also said he's been gaining significant distance since we saw him last, employing the old-but-new swing he's developed with new swing consultant Chris Como. 

"My driving has come around a lot faster (than I expected)," he said. "I'm a lot longer than I ever thought I could be again. I'm touching numbers that I did 15 years ago."

If you can remember how good Tiger Woods was in 2000, then you'll understand that's a big statement. If he's even a good portion as precise as he was that year, then 2015 could be a big comeback year for Woods.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 27

Hall of Famer Charlie Sifford recovering after stroke

Charlie Sifford, who was the first black man to earn a PGA Tour card, is recovering after suffering a stroke, according to Golf Channel.

The 92-year-old, who is also battling a bacterial infection, is reportedly in stable condition at South Pointe Hospital in Cleveland.

Sifford broke pro golf's color barrier after the PGA of America desegregated in 1961, winning twice in his PGA Tour career, including the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and 1969 Los Angeles Open. He won two senior titles.

In 2001, Sifford became the first black golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Last November, he became just the third golfer, behind Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.