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June 10 2012

10:27 PM

Notes from inside the ropes

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Rory McIlroy's hook returned at the worst possible moment Sunday at TPC Southwind.

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

There is no doubt Rory McIlroy made great progress this week. After missing three cuts in a row, the Ulsterman almost won the FedEx St. Jude Classic. There are still some problems, however, as he begins defense of his U.S. Open title this week. McIlroy has fought a hook throughout his career and it showed in the final round. Hitting 3-wood on the 18th hole, his tee ball did not even come close to finding land. Under pressure, McIlroy hits a hook and it's a problem he'll try to solve at The Olympic Club.


Athlete: 
There are not many players who can miss more than two months of competition with a back injury and win in their second tournament back on the PGA TOUR.  That's a tribute to Dustin Johnson's athleticism. There might not be a person with more athletic ability on TOUR.  Johnson routinely hits 3 wood in excess of 300 yards but it was his touch around the green that was critical on Sunday. He got up and down from 21 yards for birdie on the 16th and then rolled home a putt of 8 feet, 9 inches for birdie at the 17th to take the lead. The fact Johnson could execute both mentally and physically down the stretch, after missing two months of golf, is remarkable.


Long John:
John Daly once again showed his tremendous talent by posting the best round of the day. His 6-under 64 in the final round boosted Daly to a T19 finish. Inconsistency, though, continues to be a problem. Daly had round of 76 on Saturday. That's a 12-shot difference between his two weekend rounds.

The Duke:
Ken Duke is treating this entire season like a second chance. He lost his playing status a couple years ago but used the Nationwide Tour to regain his card and is making the most of the opportunity. With a final-round 65, Duke finished T7. He has already won more than a million dollars and will be exempt for the 2013 PGA TOUR season. Duke has posted five top 10s already this year but says it could be better. He knows where the improvement must come from.  Duke is 94th on TOUR in three-putt avoidance and had two mistakes in the final round. Duke had three putts at both the third and 16th holes.

Mentally tough:
John Merrick was happy with his final-round 68 and solo second finish, and was ever happier with his mental toughness during the day.  Merrick could have collapsed following a double bogey on the 12th hole which featured two balls in the water hazard. Instead of folding, Merrick rallied. He one-putted for a six on that 12th hole then birdied two of his last four for the runner-up finish.

Tough finish:
For the third year in a row, the 18th hole took its toll on the leaders. The 461-yard par 4 captured 10 water balls in the final round including three off the tee in the final groups. Rory McIlroy, Chad Campbell and Nick O'Hern all had a chance to win the tournament while standing on the tee at the 18th and all three of them splashed into the water.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
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