Jul 30

Rory McIlroy almost quit golf at the age of 16

The eight-shot win at Congressional for his first U.S. Open title, the eight-shot win at Kiawah Island to claim the PGA and the Claret Jug win earlier this month at Hoylake; they all almost didn't happen for Rory McIlroy.

Speaking at his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational press conference on Tuesday, the three-time major winner said he almost gave up the game of golf at the age of 16 after winning one of the most prestigious amateur events in Ireland. Yes, you read that correctly, he almost gave up the game after a win.

Here is what Rory explained to the media on Tuesday at Firestone.

"Yeah, I was ready to give it up when I was 16. I remember the drive. I just won the Mullingar Scratch Cup, and I remember the drive home with my dad. It was like a three‑hour drive. And I said to him, 'I don't like this anymore.' I don't enjoy it. I just won, and I don't know, I'm not happy, I'm not excited. I went back home and didn't play golf for about three days.

McIlroy then said he quickly realized, "Actually, I really like this game. (I was) just an impulsive teenager going through hormonal issues."

Every athlete goes through something like that at some point in his or her career, especially if you are one of the elite of the elite like Rory is. No matter if you win or lose by 40 shots, traveling from tournament to tournament, week after week, can be a grind, and any 16-year-old will want that to end at some point, even if you leave with the trophy.

I think we can all say it was a good thing that McIlroy quickly realized that wasn't the best of decisions since he has gone on to great things in professional golf and is one major away from achieving the career Grand Slam at an extremely young age.

And while Augusta National and his quest for that Grand Slam will have to wait until April, McIlroy sits as the favorite this week at Firestone at 7-to-1 and the favorite next week at the final major championship of the year as Rory looks to add a fourth major title to his resume at just 25.

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Shane Bacon is the editor of Devil Ball Golf and Busted Racquet on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shanebaconblogs@yahoo.com or

Jul 29

Teeing Off: The new Big Three: Tiger, Phil and … ?

Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball Golf editor Shane Bacon and writer Jay Busbee take a topic from the world of golf and shank it off the tee. Today: The new Big Three. You know Arnie, Jack and Gary. You know Tiger and Phil. Is there a third member of the latest Big Three, or are the contenders merely pretenders?

Bacon: Last weekend saw Jim Furyk, now 44, miss out on another shot at a PGA Tour title at the Canadian Open. Furyk, one of the stalwarts on the PGA Tour over the last two decades, hasn't won on tour since 2010, and while his slump continues, I simply ask, of this fading generation, where does Furyk rank in terms of the best players of that group? Tiger Woods is one, Phil Mickelson is two, and while Ernie Els has a great case as the third, is Furyk right behind those huge names?

Busbee: "Right behind" in a list, "five holes behind" on a golf course. This is not meant as a dismissal of Furyk in any way; he's a major winner and has an outside shot at a Hall of Fame berth. But he's a lot closer to the median golfer than outliers like Woods and Mickelson. Had he played in another era, Furyk probably would have beaten the world. He'd have been one of the two or three guys always challenging Nicklaus or Palmer, or absolutely dominant in the pre-Tiger '90s. But now? He's a distant shadow. That's not his fault, obviously, but that's the way it is when you're playing behind a pair of legends. How about your perspective?

Bacon: I think when we look back at Furyk's career, we will be wondering how in the world he didn't win more. The guy has finished in second place 28 times in his career include three this season! That's incredible! Do you think this is a situation where he actually does fall apart down the stretch, or just bad luck when he's in contention (like Tim Clark firing a back-nine 30 to get him by a shot on Sunday at the Canadian Open)?

Busbee: I would like to see a statistical study determining whether players do or don't really fall apart on the back nine on Sunday. It's been proven statistically that there's no such thing as a clutch hitter, and that home-field advantage is mainly a result of ref intimidation. I wonder, are we biased against Furyk because of his high-profile miscues? Or is it much easier to get to second place than to win? Would be fascinating to find out.

I was at the Tour Championship when he needed to get up and down from the sand on the 18th at East Lake to win $10 million, and he did so with ease. But then he's had so many opportunities exactly like you mention where he DIDN'T get the job done. Obviously he's right up there with the next tier of greats of this era. But who else besides Els belongs there? You gotta go Vijay, yes?

Bacon: It's easy to forget how much of a monster Vijay was in his prime. The guy won NINE times in 2004!

I think Vijay has to be No. 4, with Furyk a distant No. 5. Is that close? Would you put anyone else in the conversation?

Busbee: I think you're right. Anybody else we start bringing up based on record alone (Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera) has had such a spotty record outside of their highlights that it's tough to justify putting them on the list.

Unless, of course, we look forward. At what point do you think Rory McIlroy cracks this list? Or do we start a new one for him?

Bacon: I think he's in a new generation of golfers that includes (Rickie) Fowler, Dustin (Johnson), Zach Johnson and Bubba (Watson). While the ages might not match up, I feel like all those guys came around at the same time and have won together at a consistent rate.

That said, if Rory ever faces Tiger in a major and beats him (think Tom Watson at Turnberry taking down Jack Nicklaus) we might start seeing those two as generational competitors and we could watch their careers overlap in a sense.

All right, your turn! Who's the best of the best, after the two you know, in the current generation? Have your say below!

Jul 29

Tiger Woods took a vacation after the British Open, beat his kids in Putt-Putt

For those rare athletes that even separate themselves against other professionals, the competitive edge never rests. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and Tiger Woods are names that come to mind as those ultra-competitive athletes, and no matter if it's a foe or family, they have one goal; winning.

Woods spoke on Monday at a Deutsche Bank Championship press conference, an event he isn't even qualified to play in at this point considering he sits at 215th in FedEx Cup points, and while he talked about his goals this week at Firestone and next week at the PGA Championship, it was the line about playing his kids in Putt-Putt that was the most interesting.

“We had a good little time,” Woods said of his vacation with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and his two kids. “We toured a little bit and even played a little Putt-Putt, which I won every single time.”

Every. Single. Time.

Woods has an extremely uphill battle with these next two tournament starts, not just for the playoffs and beyond, but for Woods to avoid the most disappointing season of his professional career. With him being so far back in the playoff points, Tiger will basically need a win at either the Bridgestone or the PGA Championship to secure a spot at the Barclays.

One thing Tiger could do is add the Wyndham Championship to his schedule, the tournament following the PGA Championship, but that would mean three straight weeks of golf for a man coming off back surgery and if he did get his game together enough to qualify for the playoffs, it would be four straight weeks of competitive golf for Woods.

For now, Woods is focused on a golf tournament he has won eight times in his career on a golf course that has always seemed to bring the best out in Tiger. If the struggles continue this week at Firestone, not only do the playoffs become nearly impossible, but landing a spot on the Ryder Cup team could be something out of reach for a man once thought of as an automatic pick to represent the United States every two years when they go up against Europe for the biggest team trophy in golf.

I guess the only bright side to a short season for Woods is he will have plenty of time in the coming months to keep taking down Charlie and Sam at Putt-Putt if he fails to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Jul 29

The Week In Style: 07.30.14

Mr. Style's weekly look at what people are wearing on and off the golf course. Want his take on your look? Submit your style to @GolfDigestMag on Twitter using #HeyMrStyle.
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Jul 28

Random golfer finds one of President Obama’s golf balls at Congressional

Just like millions of us, President Barack Obama loves golf. The only problem is, he isn't the best at the game. That doesn't stop Obama from teeing it up, and when you aren't the best golfer, that means losing a golf ball or two per round (to be fair, even the best in the world can hit a shot that is never found). 

For you and I, losing a golf ball means somebody, at some time, will pick up our lost ball and either toss it back in the woods or decide to use it. When Obama is involved, that person takes a photo of the personalized Titleist and it goes viral.

An Instagram user named "larrydoh" posted this image after digging this ball out at Congressional on Sunday, and it's pretty hard not to identify this one as one used by the president.

h/t Eye on Golf

Jul 28

Rory McIlroy’s British Open-winning ball is up for auction

In the instant after he putted out to win the 2014 Open Championship, Rory McIlroy reached into the hole, palmed the ball, and sailed it into the crowd. The thought of every single person watching that telecast was the same — somebody's gonna sell that ball for big cash — and now, that expectation has come to pass.

Green Jacket Auctions, which has achieved some notoriety in the golf world for auctioning a very specific item (hint: see the company's name), offered $10,000 on Twitter for the ball right afterward:

 Lee Horner of England caught the ball, describing the action to ESPN.com in a spectacularly British way: "When Rory threw the ball, it hit me in the hand and then fell down," Horner said. "There was a kerfuffle, but I managed to get it and hold it in the air and the crowd went crazy."

Horner initially tossed the ball into a drawer at his office, but found out about Green Jacket Auctions' interest. Green Jacket Auctions and Nike later authenticated the ball, and away it all went. Horner has consigned the ball to auction, and will give Green Jacket 15 percent of the final bidding price.

Bidding was about $3,400 as of Monday morning. You can follow the action at the auction, which lasts until August 9, right here.

Update: As of Tuesday at 1 PM ET, the bidding has gone up to nearly $6,000. Maybe $10,000 wasn't far off!

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook or on Twitter.