Jul 06

Spieth: British Open ‘dampened’ without defending champion McIlroy

Jordan Spieth found out on Monday about Rory McIlroy's ankle injury just like the rest of us: on social media.

McIlroy ruptured a ligament on the outside of his left ankle while playing soccer with friends on July 4. He's already withdrawn from this week's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and his British Open title defense next week is in doubt.

“I thought it was really unfortunate,” Spieth said, according to Golf Channel, from Zach Johnson's annual charity golf tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Accidents happen, and I just wish for a speedy recovery. We all want him back as soon as possible.”

McIlroy won't make a decision about competing next week at St. Andrews until the end of this week, at the earliest. Spieth, who is chasing a third major in three tries this year, acknowledged that a missing McIlroy would take away from the championship at the Home of Golf.

“It kind of dampens it," Spieth said of McIlroy's absence. "You want the defending champion, much less the best player in the world at the event. You want all fields to be full strength no matter who it is. Losing the No. 1 player in the world for a major championship would be tough.”

However, were McIlroy to miss, Spieth would still look at the prospect of capturing the first three legs of a single-season Grand Slam the same way.

“For me, it doesn’t change anything,” Spieth said. “It’s still just as challenging. It’s still a major championship and there is a lot of unbelievable talent."


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

Jul 06

ESPN moves its ESPY golf tournament from Trump National L.A.

You can now count ESPN among those organizations cutting ties with Donald Trump in the wake of offensive, inaccurate comments about Mexican immigrants.

ESPN announced Monday that it has moved its ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic from Trump National Los Angeles to Pelican Hill Golf Club in nearby Newport Beach, Calif. The tournament is set for July 14 ahead of the network's annual ESPY award show and benefits The V Foundation's Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund.

“We decided it was appropriate to change the venue, and are grateful for the opportunity to stage the event at Pelican Hill on short notice," said a statement released Monday by ESPN. 

"This charity outing benefits The V Foundation’s Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, providing resources for important cancer research for minority populations, including Hispanics and African Americans. Our decision reflects our deep feelings for our former colleague and support for inclusion of all sports fans. Diversity and inclusion are core values at ESPN and our decision also supports that commitment.”

ESPN joins the likes of NBC Universal, Macy's, Univision and NASCAR, all of which have severed ties with Trump in the wake of comments made as part of his Presidential campaign.

Trump-owned properties host or will host major golf events. Trump's Doral resort hosts the WGC-Cadillac Championship, while his Puerto Rico golf club hosts the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open. Trump National L.A. is still set to host the PGA of America's PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which hosts the year's major champions in a 36-hole tournament. Trump facilities will also host the 2015 Ricoh Women's British Open, 2017 Senior PGA Championship and 2022 PGA Championship.

The PGA of America, PGA Tour, USGA and LPGA issued a joint statement on July 1 to distance themselves from Trump's remarks. However, none of the bodies has moved to remove their events from Trump venues.


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

Jul 06

Fox News anchor calls Rory McIlroy a ‘leprechaun’, says she ‘can’t stand him’

Fair and balanced, right? Fox News is at it again, but this time they've decided to offer their slant on happenings in the golf world.

During the Monday edition of "Outnumbered," the update anchor was sharing details of Rory McIlroy's ankle injury he suffered on July 4 while playing soccer with friends. The injury may prevent McIlroy from defending his British Open crown, making him the first player since Ben Hogan in 1954 to miss that title defense. 

Once the update was done, an off-camera anchor weighed in on McIlroy, saying, "He's a leprechaun. I can't stand him."

Anchor Harris Faulkner moved on very quickly from that comment, so we're not entirely sure why the disgust for the world No. 1. So we'll just report and let you decide.


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

Jul 06

Rory McIlroy injures ankle playing July 4 soccer, likely out of the Open

(Rory McIlroy via AP)Rory McIlroy is doubtful for next week's British Open Championship after suffering an ankle injury while playing soccer with friends on July 4. 

McIlroy shared the news on Instagram, saying: "Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends on Saturday. Continuing to assess extent of injury and treatment plan day by day. Rehab already started..... Working hard to get back as soon as I can."

The recovery time for such an injury can range wildy, with experts trotted out today that suggested 10-14 days or as long as six weeks. 

The four-time major winner was scheduled to compete in this week's Scottish Open, but officially withdrew on Monday. McIlroy told the European Tour he will not provide any further update on his condition until, at a minimum, "the end of the week at the earliest," according to a Tour statement.

Though the world No. 1 didn't rule out competing at St. Andrews, it seems very unlikely at this point. Were he unable to play, McIlroy would not get a chance to defend the title he won last year at Royal Liverpool. He'd be the first player since Ben Hogan in 1954 not to defend the Open title the next year. 

If McIlroy's recovery time extends well beyond a month, that would bring into doubt his PGA Championship defense in August at Whistling Straits. Beyond the remaining two majors this year, McIlroy is set to defend the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the win McIlroy sandwiched in between the Open and the PGA last summer.

After majors season ends, McIlroy then has the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. McIlroy could be healed by then, but the Ulsterman will have to deal with a bit of ring rust as he tries to make a run at the PGA Tour's season-long title before he shifts gears to potentially pursue yet another Race to Dubai title on the European Tour.

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

Jul 06

Robert Streb almost won at Greenbrier with sand wedge as his putter

Robert Streb almost won The Greenbrier Classic on Sunday playing the back nine at the Old White TPC with 13 clubs in the bag. You're allowed 14.

Streb broke his putter after the ninth hole in the final round, with the head of his Scotty Cameron flat stick coming off as he tossed it toward his caddie. Under the Rules of Golf, a player isn't allowed to replace a damaged club if that damage doesn't happen in the normal course of play, even if it happens innocently, as it did to Streb. So that meant Streb, who was 9 under par for the tournament at that point, needed to find a new putter for the back nine. He chose his sand wedge.

What a great choice.

Streb made five birdies in the final nine holes, including three of his first four, to get into a four-man playoff at 13-under-par 267. The first two birdies were a combined 4 feet of putts, but the birdie at 13 was nearly 27 feet and crucial birdies at 16 and 18 were no gimmes either.

For the playoff, Streb was allowed to put another putter he had in his locker into the bag. However, it didn't help. Streb missed the green long and left on the first playoff hole, the par-3 18th, and made a bogey that eliminated him. 

While Streb didn't get the win, he sure put on a show. Better still, he can get his regular putter fixed and have it back in the bag for his next start.


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

Jul 06

Tiger Woods closes Greenbrier with bogey-free 67

At no point on Sunday was Tiger Woods a factor to win The Greenbrier Classic. However, Woods did wrap up at the Old White TPC with a bogey-free, 3-under 67 to carry some good feelings into his next start in two weeks at the Open Championship.

“Today was a good day. I played really well today,” said Woods, who finished T-32, six shots behind the score to get into a playoff. “It’s the best I’ve hit it in a very long time. I had full control over all the clubs. I hit it great, I had it shaped both ways, right-to-left, left-to-right, I had it all on call today.”

Woods' Sunday effort -- his first bogey-free round on the PGA Tour since Round 1 of the 2013 Barclays -- was more reminiscent of the opening 66 on Thursday, where Woods appeared in almost complete control of his game. In the final round, he hit 15 of 18 greens. However, he was unable to convert most of his scoring chances inside of 20 feet. The 67 could have been much lower had the putter been more cooperative.

“I made absolutely nothing,” he said. “I think we counted up, I had six lip-outs for birdie, so this could have been one of those special rounds, I really could have gone low.”

Despite the balky putter, Woods was encouraged by his ball-striking and shot-shaping.

“I had full control over all clubs," he said. "I hit it great. I had shapes both ways — right to left, left to right. I had it all on call today.”

That and lag putting will be crucial in two weeks at St. Andrews, where Woods won the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005.


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

Jul 05

Kevin Kisner falls short in third PGA Tour playoff of season

The third time wasn't the charm for Kevin Kisner on Sunday.

Kisner played his way into a sudden-death playoff for the third time this PGA Tour season and, for the third time, he didn't come out the winner. The 31-year-old closed out The Greenbrier Classic with 6-under 64, including a 4-under back nine, to wind up as part of a four-man playoff at the Old White TPC at 13-under 267 along with David Hearn, Danny Lee and Robert Streb. 

However, on the first playoff hole, Kisner's tee shot to the par-3 18th went long and into deep rough. It took him a pair of tries just to make decent contact with the ball. On the green in three shots, Kisner was out of it. With a par on the second playoff hole, Danny Lee had won his first PGA Tour event.

Unfortunately, the loss comes with a somewhat unwanted distinction. Kisner is the first active PGA Tour player to have lost three playoffs in a single season. Four players -- Steve Elkington in 1992, Sergio Garcia in 2008, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson in 2011 -- found their way into a trio of playoffs in a single year, but all went 1-2. Kisner previously lost in overtime to Jim Furyk at the RBC Heritage and Rickie Fowler at The Players.

While Kisner is still looking for that breakthrough PGA Tour win, he chose to take the optimistic view that he will eventually find his way to the winner's circle if he keeps getting himself in position to take the trophy.

"It's tough to win out here, man. I've had a heckuva year," he said. "If I keep playing like this, I'll get plenty of wins."


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

Jul 03

Bubba Watson to paint over Confederate flag on General Lee

Bubba Watson drives off in the General Lee after playing in the pro-am at the Phoenix Open. (AP)
Bubba Watson has owned the General Lee from the 1970s and '80s TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" since 2012. On Thursday evening, Watson, who bought the car at auction for $110,000 and restored its interior, announced he is making a drastic change to the car's appearance. Watson tweeted he'll paint over the Confederate battle flag on the car's roof.

The announcement was met with a mix of kudos and cynicism. 

Some lauded Watson for deciding to remove the Confederate flag in line with a movement to eliminate what's widely seen as a symbol of racism and antebellum slavery from the public consciousness in the wake of the murders of nine people in a historically black church during a June 17 prayer service.

Others believe Watson's decision is motivated by potential backlash he could face as owner of the car. Television network TV Land has pulled scheduled re-runs of the show in the wake of the South Carolina mass murder. The network's decision dovetails with an effort in the Palmetto State to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital building, as well Walmart removing Confederate flag-adorned merchandise from its stores and NASCAR asking fans to no longer fly the flag at its races.

In February 2012, Watson had offered to drive the General Lee, which he has driven to past PGA Tour events, to a NASCAR race in Phoenix. The auto-racing body denied Watson's offer, consistent with their long-held views on the Confederate flag.

“The show was not racist. But I understand why people would get upset with the flag,” Watson said in February 2012 at the Northern Trust Open in the wake of NASCAR’s decision.

“Obviously, I don’t stand for the Confederate flag,” Watson added. “The Confederate flag was not used (in the show) for what people see it as today, so that’s sad. But NASCAR was built on moonshining, so the show was built on moonshining. I thought it was fun. I didn’t buy the car to get publicity; I bought it because I love it.”


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

Jul 02

Tiger Woods opens with 66 at Greenbrier, shows clear progress

Tiger Woods is back, and he's going to win all the majors forever. 

That seems to be the consensus reaction to Woods' opening 4-under 66 to kick off The Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia on Thursday. Woods' round at the Old White TPC concluded with three consecutive birdies, offsetting a disappointing, flashback-inducing double bogey on the par-4 sixth, his 15th hole of the day. 

Woods came out of the gate on the 10th hole looking like a player in control of his game and a guy that owns his swing. Aside from a drive -- albeit, a fairly straight, 300-yard one -- that ended up in a water hazard on the par-5 17th, Woods was a fairway-hitting machine, hitting 10 of 14 fairways. That 71.4 percent mark is substantially better than his season-long average of right around a coin flip. He gave himself a lot of birdie chances, too, hitting 14 greens in regulation. The putter, which hasn't been much of a low-light in 2015, was working as Woods gained almost three full shots on the field with the flatstick. 

All in all, it was a solid performance on a course that Woods -- well, the Woods we know and remember at his best -- should destroy. The Old White TPC is one of the easier par-70 courses on the PGA Tour, and Woods knew going into the tournament that he'd have to make a lot of birdies to be in the conversation. 

"We're just going to have make a bunch of birdies," Woods said Wednesday. "Just keep the kind of pedal down and be aggressive."

He focused on aggression and scoring on Thursday instead of process and positions. The result was a good one, tying his best score in relationship to par this year (4-under 68 in the third round of the Masters) and turning in his lowest first-round score since a 66 to open the BMW Championship in September 2013. In his prior 15 PGA Tour starts, Woods had only opened in the 60s twice. This is progress.

Now the next step is to back it up, not back up, on Friday. With soft conditions expected, Woods cannot afford an over-par effort in Round 2 -- and that's just to make the cut. 

However, with Woods' Thursday showing, it's hard to imagine he's concerned with simply making a paycheck this week. He's thinking about a golf-world-shattering win.


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