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Tom Watson walks to the 12th tee box during the pro-am for The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Rory McIlroy is not among the field of 156 players who will launch an expected assault on par in today's first round of the Greenbrier Classic at the rain-soaked Old White TPC Course.
Of course, McIlroy and his once awesome game have been missing in action most of the 2013 PGA Tour season.
Former multi-major champion and television golf analyst Nick Faldo said McIlroy can only blame himself for his game's current woes.
Coming off a 2012 campaign in which he won four tournaments, including his second major title, the Northern Ireland native has an average finish of 22.9 in 10 tour events and has wound up better than eighth only once.
In Faldo's opinion, Mc-Ilroy's slump can be pinned to an equipment change - he left Achushnet (the parent company of Titleist and Footjoy) for a big-money deal with Nike.
"Rory very simply messed with a winning formula," Faldo said. "He went from rookie of the year to world No. 1 and been through a lot and thought he could start again.
"As I said from Day One, I tweeted right away when it was announced that this was a dangerous move. I won't get into all the - people said, 'Oh, he's so talented, he can adapt.' Well, why should the world No. 1 be adapting to something new? As we discovered six months later, he's busy still trying putters, still trying drivers. It's not as easy."
McIlroy finished 41st three weeks ago in the U.S. Open. He was 57th in his previous start at the Memorial. Faldo said he thinks the 24-year-old McIlroy has lost his confidence.
"We get a millisecond of feel at impact and if it's going great, it builds confidence; if it's suddenly something different to what you've been doing or thinking you're going to do, that hurts your confidence," Faldo said. "So I hope he hasn't gone too far, but it's damaged his confidence."
U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Tom Watson announced Wednesday that he has named ESPN golf analyst Andy North as his vice captain for the 2014 event in Scotland.
North, 63, won the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1985. He also represented the U.S. in the 1985 Ryder Cup.
"Andy knows what it takes to close the deal, and that's what we need on the Ryder Cup team," Watson said.
North described himself as "giddy" over the opportunity.
"I've been lucky enough to cover it for ESPN, and I get emotional covering it," he said. "It's going to be a great experience, and the bottom line is we get a 'W' at the end of the week."
Speith turning heads
Teenager Jordan Speith has taken the Tour by storm, recording five top-10 finishes in 14 starts this season. He has banked $1,153,079 and will be making his Greenbrier debut this week.
"Jordan is on the rise," Faldo said. "He's a 19-year-old kid, already rich. Don't you just hate that? And good luck to him."
The former University of Texas star has the looks of a great one in the making.
"Jordan is an incredible talent. That's just plain all there is to it. And what a career he has in front of him," Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice said.
Follow the throng
It won't be hard to find Phil Mickelson and Greenbrier first-timer Bubba Watson today and Friday. The two biggest names in the field are paired with a third left-hander, defending champion Ted Potter Jr. The trio goes off the first tee at 1 p.m. today. They will play at 7:50 a.m. Friday off of No. 1.
"I didn't have anything to do with [the pairing], but I think the gallery will all be on the left-hand side of the fairways now, and they should be," Justice said.
Despite being the defender, Potter knows he will be the third wheel of the group.
"It's going to be different," Potter said. "I'm definitely not used to seeing that many people spectating out there in the group. ... It's looks like a big old wall down both sides of the fairways with people."
By the numbers
Seven of the tour's top 20 money winners are in the field: No. 4 Phil Mickelson ($3,417,984); No. 6 Billy Horschel ($3,012,168); No. 7 Bill Haas $2,761,333; No. 11 Boo Weekley ($2,307,509); No. 15 D.A. Points ($2,151,022); No. 16 Webb Simpson ($2,038,061); and No. 20 Russell Henley ($1,830,123). ... Keegan Bradley, who is 12th on the list, withdrew late last week. ... The field includes 30 players who have won a tournament the past two seasons. ... Speaking of winning, former Virginia Tech standout Brendon de Jonge is 0-for-169 in his career. This could be the week. He has finished fourth twice, owns the second-lowest career scoring average (67.59) and won the third-most loot ($648,748) among players who have played the first three Greenbrier events.
Staff writer Aaron McFarling contributed to this report.
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