Wednesday’s golf: Rested McIlroy hits ground running

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Rory McIlroy took off the final three months of the year to heal his body and clear his mind, and he appears eager to get back to work.

With a series of announcements over the last week, McIlroy revealed what likely will be his most ambitious schedule ahead of Augusta National in the 10 years he has been eligible for the Masters.

The most McIlroy has ever played before the Masters was seven tournaments — in 2009, the first year he was eligible for all four majors, and in 2016. Next year he is planning to play eight.

McIlroy, coming off his first winless year since 2008, will start the new season with two tournaments in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) before he embarks on a busy PGA Tour schedule. He is playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the first time, followed by the Genesis Open at Riviera and a third straight week at the Honda Classic, not far from where he lives.

Most peculiar about McIlroy’s schedule is that he is skipping the World Golf Championship in Mexico City and instead will play the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook for the first time, and then play the following week at Bay Hill.

That’s two tournaments he has never played, and three courses (two at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am) that he will have to learn.

His manager said McIlroy also would play the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas, where two years ago he reached the semis. That means McIlroy will play three straight weeks (Pebble, Riviera, Honda), take a week off, then another three weeks in a row (Valspar, Bay Hill, Match Play) and then have a week off before the Masters.

Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting McIlroy’s best mate, Harry Diamond, will remain as his caddie. McIlroy split with J.P. Fitzgerald after the British Open, and Diamond worked for him the rest of the year.

Last chance

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world to play in the Indonesian Masters. He hopes it can lead to an invitation to that other Masters.

Snedeker is No. 51 in the world, and this is the last tournament available for him to play. The top 50 at the end of the year earn a spot in the field at Augusta National. Snedeker, who missed five months with a sternum injury, will have plenty of competition beyond Justin Rose.

Garcia awards

A green jacket, a bride, a baby on the way and now the awards are starting to cap off a memorable year for Sergio Garcia.

The Masters champion was selected as the European Tour golfer of the year, the first time he was won the award. Garcia won three times this year, including the Dubai Desert Classic and the Andalucia Masters, to go along with his first major championship at Augusta National.

The award was decided by a panel consisting of golf media.

“This is an amazing honor,” Garcia said. “I think both on and off the golf course, it has been a unique and unbelievable year, and one that I will definitely remember my whole life.”

The British-based Association of Golf Writers also honored Garcia with its Golf Writers Trophy.

Drug suspension

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy for failing to provide a sample.

He becomes the fourth PGA Tour member to be suspended since the policy took effect in 2008.

Go low

For the second time this decade, the PGA Tour had two players break 60 in the same year. Paul Goydos (John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (Greenbrier Classic) did it in 2010, while Justin Thomas (Sony Open) and Adam Hadwin (CareerBuilder Challenge) did it this year.

There were 120 players who posted all four rounds in the 60s in 2017 without winning, and 23 players did it more than once.

LPGA returns

Michigan’s two golf tournament will return to the LPGA schedule in 2018.

The LPGA Volvik Championship will return to Ann Arbor for its third edition from May 24-27 with a purse of $1.3 million.

Three weeks later, the Meijer LPGA Classic will be held in Grand Rapids from June 14-17, with a $2 million purse.