Confident McIlroy ready for weather at Merion


Confident McIlroy ready for weather at Merion

ARDMORE, Pa. -- At some point, Rory McIlroy says, he wants to get into the city of Philadelphia so he can do one thing …

Run up the Art Museum steps like Rocky Balboa.

“I was half thinking of going to the steps in the city -- the Rocky steps -- wherever they are and run up them,” McIlroy said during his media availability for the U.S. Open at Merion East Golf Club.

As far as touristy things to do go, perhaps Philadelphians will catch McIlroy at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or even Pat’s at 2 a.m. for a cheesesteak.

More likely, though, McIlroy will be front and center when the tournament begins on Thursday, playing alongside Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. That’s the top three-ranked golfers in the world playing together for the first two rounds at Merion.

With any luck, McIlroy hopes to be playing with Woods or Scott in the last group on Sunday.

“It's something that wasn't too much of a surprise. The guys at the USGA have done it quite a few times before,” McIlroy said. “It's always nice to be a part of a group like that. Something that I'm excited about. It's a good thing. I like it because you're in a group like that there's a lot of buzz and a lot of atmosphere around it and it gets you focused from the first shot.

“Teeing off on Thursday afternoon, there's obviously going to be a lot of attention on that group and it's just nice to be a part of it.”

A winner of two majors, including a record-breaking performance at the 2011 U.S. Open played at Congressional Country Club outside of Washington, D.C., McIlroy could very well remain in the spotlight come Sunday. A lot of that has to do with the condition of the golf course. The heavy rain that has hit the region has turned the grounds at Merion soft. That means the course will be easier and scores will be lower.

Often the U.S. Open is a war of attrition in which the winner is the last man left unbroken by the extreme rough and slick putting surfaces. But the rain takes control away from the course and gives it back to the players.

When McIlroy won in 2011 with the record-breaking score of 268 (16-under), the rain played a major role.

He expects the play at Merion to be very similar.

“I didn't really enjoy the [the 2012 U.S. Open at the] Olympic Club last year. I much prefer this sort of golf, I guess,” McIlroy said. “When you hit a shot and it doesn't bounce one way or the other, when you hit it and it stays where you think it's going to stay. There's still not going to be that many birdies out here. You've still got to hit it on the fairway. It's still a pretty tight golf course. So when you do get it in the rough, you're not going to make birdies out of there. So you're going to have chances, but you're going to have some holes where it's going to be very difficult.

“I expect the scores to be a little lower than what they would be if the course was a little firmer and drier, but I don't think you'll see scores like the scores that were shot at Congressional a couple of years ago.”

Maybe not yet, but the course could become even more water logged.

Forecasters are predicting more rain for Thursday. However, it doesn’t hurt that McIlroy feels confident about his game. In fact, McIlroy pointed out, his game might be in better shape heading into this week’s Open than it was when he won at Congressional.

“I guess that the two majors that I've won I've sort of come in a little bit like that, with low expectations,” McIlroy said. “I feel like coming into the U.S. Open this year, my game's in much better shape than it was last year. I came off the back of three missed cuts in a row and I wasn't playing very well. And this year I feel like my game is actually in good shape. So I feel coming in this year I've got a way better chance than I did last year.”

McIlroy doesn’t need to play alongside of Woods and Scott to get noticed. Chances are the gregarious 24-year old from Northern Ireland would have a large gallery following him around regardless of who he was lined up with.

Better yet, maybe Woods is happy that McIlroy will take some of the attention.

“I think it will be fantastic. I was part of that the first time they did it in ’08 and it was very electric out there,” Woods said. “Normally we don’t get those types of pairings very often. When you do it just makes it that much more enjoyable for us as players.”

Eagles mailbag: Biggest concern, roster battles, kicker fight!

Eagles mailbag: Biggest concern, roster battles, kicker fight!

Training camp isn't that far away. Really — it isn't. 

In fact, the Eagles kick off this year's camp in less than a month, so before you know it, football will be back in Philadelphia. 

Earlier this week, I took another shot at a 53-man roster projection, knowing full well it's way too early to try. But I had some fun. 

And I asked for questions and you good people, even in the middle of summer, came through. So I'll try my best to answer them: 

There are plenty of roster questions about this Eagles football team. To put it bluntly, they're just not very talented at some positions and they lack playmakers. But really, the biggest question is about the head coach. Doug Pederson might end up being a great coach. He might end up being Andy Reid 2.0 and take the team to multiple championships and a Super Bowl. Heck, maybe he'll even win the big game. 

But for now, it's fair to wonder if Pederson will even be a decent coach. It's not that he can't be, it's that we don't have a ton of evidence to support the idea that he will be. The Eagles scoffed at the question during his introductory press conference, but it sure seemed like Pederson wasn't their first choice and there weren't exactly many teams lining up to interview him. He's an offensive coach who has been in the shadow of another offensive coach during all of his years coaching in the NFL -- that's another worry. 

I actually think Pederson is off to a pretty good start. He had some unique situations -- Fletcher Cox, Sam Bradford, Darren Sproles -- this offseaon, and he handled all of them well. Players seem to like him. Heck, everyone seems to like him. He's a nice guy, which helps because players want to play for him. But how will he handle game situations, when -- as he says -- the bullets are flying? We'll have to see. For now, though, it's a serious concern. 

As far as starter positions go, I think the wide receivers are going to be fun to watch in training camp. There are several guys who could end up being starters. And it might sound boring, but the kicker battle will probably be pretty close. Right now, I think Caleb Sturgis might have a slight (very slight) edge. 

But the biggest logjam of players is probably at cornerback. No, the team doesn't have top-flight guys, but it does have plenty of young talent there. Guys like JaCorey Shepherd, Jaylen Watkins, Jalen Mills, Aaron Grymes, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice will all be trying to stick at the bottom of the roster. 

Hmmm, a literal kicker battle. Well, let's look at the tale of the tape: 

Caleb Sturgis: 5-9, 192 pounds, 26 years old, has five siblings

Cody Parkey: 6-0, 193 pounds, 24 years old, played LB and OL growing up

Sturgis had five siblings and his brother is an MLS soccer player, so there's a good chance he got in some fights as a youngin. But Parkey, in the media guide, said he played LB and OL and was actually a chubby kid. 

Verdict: I have no idea who would win, but if a kicker fight broke out at training camp, I'd smile a mile wide. 

Carson Wentz's dog has its own Twitter account

Carson Wentz's dog's Instagram

Carson Wentz's dog has its own Twitter account

Fans of both the Disney Channel's hit show "Dog with a Blog" and the Philadelphia Eagles football team will be extra excited to hear this one: Carson Wentz's dog has its own Twitter account.

Now, it's unclear who exactly is behind the @QB11_Henley Twitter account but the bio says, "Official account of Eagles QB, Carson Wentz's dog Henley." And the account is followed by Wentz's official account, so this could actually be his (very intelligent) dog tweeting.

The account details the journey of the pup from Fargo to Philly and even uses the hashtag #FargotoPhilly.

Let's see what Henley is up to:

Once a Bison, Always a Bison #fargotophilly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

Checking out the Minneapolis skyline #fargotophilly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

Went for a walk around the stadium to stretch out #fargotophilly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

Driving through downtown #fargotophilly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

Thinking about running for office in my new home state! #fargotophilly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

Finally made it home to dad, @cj_wentz11!!! #philly

A photo posted by Henley (@qb11_henley) on

The end.

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues RW Troy Brouwer

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues RW Troy Brouwer

Each day from now until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the league’s top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Troy Brouwer, right wing

Age: Will turn 31 in August
Height: 6-3
Weight: 210
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2015-16 cap hit: $3.67 million

Scouting report
Veteran Troy Brouwer is proof that late-round draft gems do exist. A seventh-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004, Brouwer has carved out an effective career in the NHL. In his eight years in the league with Chicago, Washington and St. Louis, the soon-to-be 31-year old has scored 150 goals and added 144 assists for 294 points.

Brouwer, who won a Stanley Cup with the 2010 Blackhawks, is a very reliable two-way player with the ability to play against the opposition’s best players every night. Case in point, he played the third-most minutes among forwards on a Blues penalty kill that finished the regular season third in the league with an 85.1 percent success rate. He also brings a physical element to the ice as he was second on the Blues last season with 206 hits. He isn’t the fastest guy in the world, though.

As far as offense is concerned, Brouwer’s skill set isn’t going to wow anyone. He scores his fair share of dirty goals and can be a menace in front of the net. That type of player can be a valuable asset to a team, but he’s not a player who should be counted on to pick up the offensive load. Think of him more as complementary piece who can play a top-six role.

He’s about to strike in free agency while the iron is hot as he’s coming off a productive playoff run during which he scored eight goals (fifth-most in the league during the postseason) and added five assists as the Blues made the Western Conference Final for the first time in 15 years before ultimately falling to the San Jose Sharks in six games.

Brouwer has the gritty, two-way game that the Flyers typically find attractive. But, as mentioned above, Brouwer is more of a complementary piece than anything else.

And, let’s face it, the Flyers already have too many complementary types as it is right now. The Flyers need more scoring from the wing than Brouwer has been known to provide, and they’ll want it from someone younger. He’s not a fit in Philadelphia.

Where is he a fit? Good question. Contenders will have interest in a versatile guy such as Brouwer and he’ll probably get somewhere around the same money he made last year. Maybe slightly higher.

He’s a great fit, if he stays, for a contender like St. Louis, but the Blues have to make a decision on team captain David Backes before they can adhere to any other business. How about a team like the Dallas Stars, who are a legitimate threat but also had their issues last season? Just a suggestion that could make sense.

But Brouwer in Philadelphia at this point in time just doesn’t make much sense.