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95th PGA Championship

Ian Poulter to media: Back off Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy could laugh during Wednesday’s practice round — but smiles have been few and far between lately.

Jeff Haynes /REUTERS

Rory McIlroy could laugh during Wednesday’s practice round — but smiles have been few and far between lately.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — After a well-publicized equipment change, no wins, and the loss of the world’s No. 1 ranking, Rory McIlroy has had his share of difficult questions to answer from the media in 2013.

One of McIlroy’s former Ryder Cup teammates had a reply and a request to the golf writers: Back off.

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“Yeah, give him a break,” Ian Poulter said. “I guess in the outside world, there’s been a lot of talk obviously of Rory, world No. 1, two majors at a very early age. Everybody expects Rory to continue to win big tournaments, and he will.

“The fact of signing a big endorsement deal [with Nike, after years with Titleist] and changing equipment manufacturers come under a lot of scrutiny. So he’s had a lot of extra pressure to go out there and play golf.”

McIlroy followed Poulter into the media center Wednesday for his news conference at the 95th PGA Championship, and was asked if he felt the media should lay off him.

“I’d definitely rather be up here talking about more positive things, but I guess that’s the way it is,” he said. “The way this year’s gone, it’s understandable why I’m not.

“Should you lay off me? That’s not for me to decide. I’m here and I’m answering your questions and that’s all I can do.”

Fender bender

US Open champion Justin Rose was involved in a minor traffic accident Monday. The news came courtesy of Brandt Snedeker, who snapped a picture and posted it on Twitter. Rose, driving his courtesy car, appeared to make minor contact with another vehicle.

Cue the “bad driving” jokes.

“Unfortunately just a minor fender bender,” Rose said. “Obviously it’s embarrassing, but at the same time no one was hurt, and that’s, I guess, all that matters at the end of the day.”

Olympic shift

With the 2016 Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro from Aug. 5-21, and golf being part of the program, the PGA Championship will most likely need to alter its schedule that year. The 2016 PGA will be played at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America, was asked Wednesday if anything has been decided about a new date.

“I was asked if there was any chance the PGA Championship would be played in October of 2016, and my answer was, at this point, I don’t see that being likely,” Bishop said. “I talked about the fact that everything was going to be shifted, possibly the [British] Open championship and the PGA a little bit in 2016 to accommodate the Olympic schedule.

“I did indicate that, in all likelihood, the PGA Championship would probably be played the latter part of July in 2016, but I also went on to say that nothing had been officially decided.”

The Ryder Cup will also be played in 2016, at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn. Those dates have not been announced.

Trevino honored

Lee Trevino, twice a winner of the PGA Championship (1974, 1984) and also winner of the 1968 US Open at Oak Hill, was given the PGA of America’s Distinguished Service Award at a ceremony Wednesday night . . . As defending champion, McIlroy served as host of Tuesday night’s champions dinner and set the menu. He selected a goat cheese and beet root salad, Irish beef tenderloin, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert . . . Tiger Woods put in an early practice session for the second day in a row. He and Hunter Mahan were on the course by 6:35 a.m. — spectator gates didn’t open until 7 — and he spent time on the range and putting green after his round. He left Oak Hill before noon . . . Woods is paired with Keegan Bradley and Davis Love, a group of former PGA champions that will start off the 10th hole at 8:35 a.m. Another notable group is the customary pairing of the first three major winners this year. Adam Scott (Masters), Justin Rose (US Open), and Phil Mickelson (British Open) begin play off No. 1 at 1:45 p.m.

Of local interest

Jeff Martin, the head professional at Norton (Mass.) Country Club making his third appearance in the PGA, will start at 12:30 p.m., off No. 10. He’s paired with Derek Ernst and Charles Howell III. Kirk Hanefeld of Acton, playing in his second PGA, has a 2 p.m. tee time, also off No. 10, playing with Graham DeLaet and Kyle Stanley . . . Mark Brooks, the 1996 PGA winner, withdrew with an undisclosed injury, giving a spot in the field to J.J. Henry, the first alternate. Brooks has been somewhat of an instructor to Henry, and was seen working with him on the practice green after his withdrawal. Jeff Overton is now next on the alternate list, should anyone else withdraw . . . The US Open is leaving NBC Sports and switching to Fox Sports in 2015. The pact runs through 2026 and the first US Open on Fox will take place at Chambers Bay near Seattle.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.
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