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Rory McIlroy Among World's Greatest Golfers; Ryder Cup: Miracle at Medinah; Players Turn Attention to Year Ahead; 2016 Rio Olympic Games Golf Course Architect Gil Hanse; Memories from 2012

Aired December 6, 2012 - 12:30   ET


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: On this month's program, we'll look back at the biggest stories of the year: the irresistible rise of Rory. After a stunning 2012, what next for the world number one?


RORY MCILROY, WORLD NUMBER ONE: I'm really looking forward to 2013 already, even though this year has just ended. I'm looking forward to preparing and getting my game in shape for next year.


O'DONOGHUE: Plus, reflections on probably the most dramatic day in world golf.

And after an Olympic year to remember, we look forward to Rio with the man charged with designing the course.

Rory McIlroy began 2012 as a prodigiously talented Major winner. By the time he arrived here in Dubai for the season-ending finale, he'd not only risen to world number one, but had also claimed the US and European money titles.

But above even these achievements, his second Major victory elevated him to a new level enjoyed by some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Rory's year began well in Abu Dhabi, where he played alongside Tiger and finished second in a very strong field. And he followed that up by making the final in the first world golf championship of the season, the Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

His first win of the season came in March at the Honda Classic, where he held off a charge from Tiger and claimed the world number one spot with his victory.

After a little mid-season slump, he then won three more times in late summer and the autumn, becoming the first European ever to win four PGA tour events in a season, and only the second player ever to win the PGA and European money lists in the same year, following Luke Donald's achievement last season.

MCILROY: I've played well. You need to be able to do that. I finished second in China, third in Singapore, and then got the win here. So, it was a big goal of mine. I wanted to win the race to Dubai since the start of the year.

The money list in America wasn't so much a priority, but it was nice to get that, too. So yes, it's been a great way to finish the year.

O'DONOGHUE: It was Rory's second Major victory in the PGA championship Kiawah Island that really moved him into another league in terms of golfing greats.

Rory had won his first Major the previous year, it was the US Open, at the age 22, the same age as Jack Nicklaus and a year older than Tiger. His second Major came at the same age as both of his golfing heroes. And not only that, his eight-shot victory margin beat the previous record, held by none other than Jack Nicklaus.

This year, in two world exclusives, we brought together Rory and Jack before Rory's second Major victory, and then Rory and Tiger just a few weeks ago.

TIGER WOODS, WORLD NUMBER THREE: When he's out there and he's rolling, it's impressive. It's tough. Really, really tough to beat. It's fun to play against somebody like that, who has a lot of belief in his own ability. He has the potential to win countless more major championships.

JACK NICKLAUS, 18-TIME MAJOR WINNER: He's got a great, great future in front of him, as everybody knows. But don't put so much pressure on him that he turns around and says, I've got to do it because everybody thinks I'm going to do it. No. Let him be Rory McIlroy.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): A big thing to get the Major early, though, isn't it?

NICKLAUS: Oh, it's a -- he's got the monkey off his back right now. It's gone. Now you can go and play golf. He doesn't have to worry about people saying, well, he's a really good player, but he's never won. The next one will come, and it'll come when it's ready to come, and when they do, it may start coming -- I may worry about him rather than Tiger.


MCILROY: I looked up to Tiger so much as a kid and obviously he's always had that goal of trying to surpass Jack's number. Maybe one day I'll think about it a little bit more and put a number on it, but for right now, I'm at two, and I want to get to three.

O'DONOGHUE: In what way do you look upon the coverage of golf and perhaps the scrutiny of you and your game right now, Rory?

MCILROY: Yes. I'm -- I'm as much a golf fan as anyone else. I love to keep up-to-date with what's going on, but I try to limit myself to what I read about -- articles about myself. I already know what I've said. I already know what I've said to the guys, and I don't need to read it again.

NICKLAUS: I was never interested in what somebody said about me. He's got to be a little selfish. He's got to be able to say, "I'm sorry, I've got my schedule, I've got to do this, and I've got to be able to do that. I can't do everything everybody wants me to do."

O'DONOGHUE: What advice do you have for Rory at this stage, Tiger?

WOODS: Pacing yourself. Everyone is going to be trying to bring you to their event to tear you away from time that's spent to practicing. How did you get there? You didn't get there by sitting on your butt the entire time. You got there by working hard and doing all the things you needed to do to prepare.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): So, how's it been to develop those friendships with the game's greats?

MCILROY: It's been a little surreal for me. I never thought I'd be able to do it. Sitting down with Jack and Tiger on LIVING GOLF this year and sort of doing interviews with them both. It's something that I never thought that I would do.

So, it's been pretty cool, getting to know both of them, get as much advice off Jack as I can, and I guess a little bit off Tiger, too. But I've -- it's been great. I've got a great relationship with both of those guys, and hopefully that can continue.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come: Ian Poulter on a stunning year for European golf.


IAN POULTER, 5 BIRDIES IN LAST 5 HOLES TO KEEP EUROPE ALIVE, RYDER CUP: Anything's possible. That glimmer of hope turned into a miracle at Medinah.



O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, as the elite of the European tour gathered here in Dubai, they were already guaranteed one famous trophy, and it's a sobering thought that but for one very helpful American cop, the most remarkable day in world golf might never have been. But Rory did arrive in Medinah on time, police lights flashing, and the rest is history.


LEE WESTWOOD, WON 2 POINTS, LOST 2, RYDER CUP: Well, he went from what would probably been reported as the Massacre at Medinah to the Miracle at Medinah.

MARTIN KAYMER, HOLDS THE WINNING PUTT TO CLINCH RYDER CUP: It was probably the most exciting four or five hours I had on the golf course.

MCILROY: We went there on Sunday and just give it our all.

POULTER: That glimmer of hope turned into a Miracle at Medinah.


O'DONOGHUE: It really was a great win.

GRAEME MCDOWELL, TEAM EUROPE: Obviously, it's a tough match. You're playing Tiger and Stricker, too. Two very solid guys. Tiger's been too much to defeat in this Ryder Cup, and I didn't want it again. Justin was there to back me up at the right times, and it was a pretty special win.

POULTER: We're in a hole. There's blood in the water. We've got to try and stop it this afternoon.


MCILROY: This afternoon, it was great to be a part of. We didn't really have much going early on.

POULTER: We can do what the Americans have done to us in 99, turn that 10-6 deficit around and somehow win it, it would be a pretty special day. We know it can be done, so we've just got to go and do it.


DUSTIN JOHNSON, TEAM USA: It was tough, it was definitely tough losing. Nobody wants to lose, but they played better than we did today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's unbelievable. I think Seve must have been helping us up there today. We needed all the help we could get.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL, CAPTAIN, TEAM EUROPE: Before we do anything, I want to present you with this wonderful reward.


OLAZABAL: It's all yours. You make sure you get on time to the tee next time, OK?

MCILROY: Perfect! Thank you! Thank you!

OLAZABAL: It's big enough so you can see the time.


POULTER: What we've done today, what we've done for the week is just -- is just memorable, and you know what? I'm grateful for Oli for picking me to come and play, and the least I could do is bring him four points.

MCDOWELL: Incredible for Seve, for Oli, I'm sure Seve's up there right now have a couple of Cervezas enjoying this one. Something happened last night when Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy won that last point and birdied the last six holes. Momentum swung our way, and we managed to keep that momentum going today.

Incredible performance. I'd have loved to have won my point, but you know what? Who cares? 14.5, 13.5, Europe, Ryder Cup is our again. It's special stuff.

O'DONOGHUE: How good does it feel, Martin? That was incredible pressure and an incredible moment, and you delivered?

KAYMER: Yes, I think it's the way Graeme felt two years ago. It's -- it's a dream that I've never had before.


OLAZABAL: I told you! I knew I can rely on German ingenuity.


O'DONOGHUE: From CNN, just the quickest word to sum it up, because this has been an historic day for you.

OLAZABAL: Well, it's just one of those days that will go down in the history books. It was a tough week. Things that didn't go our way at all the first two days, but these guys believed in themselves and managed to win the trophy.

O'DONOGHUE: Emotionally for you, what was it like, certainly today, because of what you needed to do, what you wanted them to do, and what you were telling them that they should do?

OLAZABAL: Well, emotionally, it was a tough one. Yesterday, everyone believed that we could do it. When we looked at the pairings, I thought the matches were well-balanced and they believed in themselves.

O'DONOGHUE: And the final question, in terms of your career with the Majors, everything that you've achieved, your association with Severiano Ballesteros, both you and the team, how does this day compare?

OLAZABAL: This is number one.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, the stars look ahead to 2013.


WOODS: It's been four years now since I've won a Major championship, and I'd like to get another one, there's no doubt.


O'DONOGHUE: And we sit down with the man creating golf history in Rio.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, as the European tour reached its 2012 finale here in Dubai, there was only on full week's rest before the 2013 season began in South Africa, and already some players were turning their attention to the year ahead.


POULTER: I feel it's time that I need to step up and try and slip a jacket on or hold a claret jug or a US Open. I feel -- I feel my golf game's good enough, and it's time to be able to go out there and try and deliver upon that.

MCILROY: I'm really looking forward to 2013 already, even though this year has just ended. I'm going to cut my schedule back a little bit next year and try and peak four times a year for the big tournaments.

MCDOWELL: Just continue to improve and continue to compete on the big stages. That's my goals for 2013.

WOODS: It's been four years now since I've won a Major championship, and I've been there with chances over those four years, but I would like to get another one, there's no doubt.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): As the players look forward to the season ahead, they'll do so mindful of the fact that come 2016, they will no longer have free use of the belly putter after a ruling last month by the governing bodies made it illegal for a player to anchor the club to their chest, stomach, or chin.

WOODS: I've never been a fan of it. I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how it should be played.

LUKE DONALD, WORLD NUMBER 14: I think anyone that's very proficient at short putters wouldn't mind seeing the belly putter banned. Anything that's an advantage to me, I'm all for it.

O'DONOGHUE: So, while some will be glad to see the back of them, there's no doubt the ruling has thrown an awkward spotlight on Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els, who've grown accustomed to playing and winning with the belly putter.


O'DONOGHUE: Away from the tours and one thing scheduled for January is the American architect Gil Hanse moving to Rio di Janeiro. So what? Well, he's going because he's due to start building the golf course for the Rio Olympics, having beaten off the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Greg Norman for the honor of designing it.

Don Riddell sat down with Gil and asked him if, after a series of local disputes and delays, he was really going to be able to get started.


DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Be honest. Do you expect to get started on time?


RIDDELL: And I'm not critiquing your operation and your manner of doing business, but there's a lot of hurdles in the way, and everybody knows what it's like to business in Brazil. And with land and a project like this, it's complicated, right?

GIL HANSE, GOLF COURSE ARCHITCT, 2016 RIO OLYMPICS: It is. And it's -- obviously, with the Olympics, the involvement there, the city, the municipality. Building a golf course in any city would be very, very difficult.

To be part of the beauty of this is that the Rio Olympics, that golf competition will actually happen in Rio. So, I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary. The expectation with getting this finalized.

Most projects don't start exactly on time, but we have commitments to move down there in January. Our daughter's going to start school down there in January, so all of that's in place, so, if I was hesitant or worried at all, I don't think we'd have taken those steps.

RIDDELL: So, you'll take 14 months to build it, which means it's, what? Got about two and a half years before the tournament starts roughly. What kind of standard of course are the players going to be playing on?

HANSE: I think we'll have the opportunity to present a fully-mature course. And too main reasons being is that it's on sand, which is the perfect growing medium from our standpoint. It allows us to create a very firm, fast surface, but it also drains very, very well.

And then, it's being a southern climate, it's not as if we have four months where the grass doesn't grow. It's constantly growing and maturing and getting itself set up.

RIDDELL: What kind of guided you when you were designing the course?

HANSE: Well, we know we had the two main components. We had to host the Olympic competition for the best golfers in the world. And then we also had to build a golf course that could be used from the legacies perspective, and obviously there's going to be a wide range of golfers who play over the golf course.

So, our thought was to create a course that would be interesting and compelling based on angles for the better golfer, for the accomplished player. So we would provide a wide playing corridor, very much like the original design for Augusta National, where big playing corridors, you can kind of hit the ball all over the place, but to score, you really need to focus on hitting the proper half of the fairway.

And then, to compound that even further, to score on a course like Augusta, you need to hit the proper quarter of the green, otherwise the putting gets very, very difficult.

So, with that concept in mind, we were able to design a golf course that would have wide playing corridors where angles were absolutely critical, and very large greens.

We called it a greens-centric design, if you will, where we were able to create some very compelling, interesting angles that will place the challenge at a premium on accuracy for those types of players, yet everyday player who's just hitting into a big target, a big green.

RIDDELL: Golf fans can't wait to see what it's going to look like. How would you characterize the style and the design of the course?

HANSE: Every course we design, we try to make it look and feel as if it's in its own sense of place. So, I think with Rio, because there is no sort of -- no precedent for golf, or a very small precedent for golf in the city, we -- the image we portrayed was much more along the lines of an Australian sand belt golf course.

So, I think if we can create something that has the look of a Kingston Heath or a Royal Melbourne, yet utilize the vegetation that's indigenous to Rio, and then have the mountain backdrops and the ocean backdrops and being right in the city, the backdrop of the city itself, I think that will make the golf course look and feel as if it belongs where it is.

But I think for people who are just trying to create an image, the Australian sand belt would be the best we could give them.

RIDDELL: Now, golf has a tremendous opportunity by returning to the Olympics after, what? More than 100 years out. A lot of people within the industry think golf needs to perhaps do something different, perhaps reinvent itself.

HANSE: Sure.

RIDDELL: What kind of golf would you like to see being played on your course there?

HANSE: Well, I think the design of the course was set up that we would have a very interesting finish. Short par 4, 16th drivable for most players. Short par 3 17th, and then a reachable par 5 18th.

I'm a believer that for the game to show itself properly, we need to show elements both of stroke play and match play, because they are two very distinctly different aspects of the same game, and I think that that would be something that if it could be featured, would be a big positive for the game.

And I think -- we've heard a lot of arguments as well that in the Olympics golf -- the Olympic gold medal will not be the pinnacle of the game, the Four Majors will still hold sway, and hopefully we'll have a long history over time where maybe the golf -- the gold medal in the Olympics will become that gold -- that standard.

But I think in order to differentiate the Olympic competition from the other four Majors would be a wise thing to do as well.

RIDDELL: Gil, it's been great to meet you. Congratulations once again, and I wish you all the best with your project.

HANSE: Thank you very much, Don.


O'DONOGHUE: Gil Hanse, there. Well, that's nearly all from this edition of LIVING GOLF. Don't forget, all our reports are online, and you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter.

Next month, we're in South Africa, but for now, from Dubai, we leave you with some of our memories from a wonderful year's golf.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF.

There is one trophy that you have not yet competed for, but you are going to compete for it today.


O'DONOGHUE: It is the LIVING GOLF trophy, it's between you and me.

LORENA OCHOA, MEXICAN GOLFER: When you are a woman and you play for so long and you want to have a kid and you want to start a family, but you don't do anything about it because you are traveling 50 weeks a year and you live in a suitcase and you're already 37. I didn't want that to happen to me.

DONALD: Got the cameraman pretty good, but it's all about practice, though.

ERNIE ELS, WORLD NUMBER 16: I had a really good time, but I don't want it to end now. I'd like to continue on trying to win golf tournaments. So yes, the desire is actually there.


OLAZABAL: 86 was my first year as a professional, so I lived here, all the way until 93.

O'DONOGHUE: So, as a little boy, you'd come home from school and literally, the 9th green was just here. You'd walk outside the door.

OLAZABAL: Right. Yes. That's true.

O'DONOGHUE: Here's to Europe and the Ryder Cup. Success!

OLAZABAL: Thank you very much.