The mystery of McIlroy
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The Solheim Cup had some exciting moments but the US swamped the Euros pretty badly, leading to some reports that the LET is in trouble. What was your take on the event and should the organizers do anything different to improve the product?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think the LET may be in trouble for other reasons, not because of their performance in the Solheim. But yes, I think the LPGA and LET really should consider broadening their horizons and make it NORTH AMERICA vs. THE REST OF THE WORLD in future Solheim Cups. It really seemed silly pretending that this weekend’s matches were the de facto World Series of Women’s Golf, when most of the dominant players today come from the other, other side of the world. If they did make it a universal event, then Brooke Henderson could be part of the North America team… and all the Asians who are dominating women’s golf could be part of the World team. Surely this would be more representative of what’s going on in women’s golf today. And surely this would add millions of viewers and inestimable interest to the Solheim Cup program.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): It wasn’t even close. The Americans ladies played unbelievable golf all week long and got tremendous results from players like Christie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Lizette Salas, and Danielle Kang. Lexi Thompson was also tremendous throughout the week, winning or halving each of her four matches including that epic showdown with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist on the final day. Nordqvist and Catriona Matthew were also very impressive for the Europeans, but the rest of their teammates got overpowered by an American squad that looked hell-bent on successfully defending its title for the fifth time since the event was introduced in 1990. The US now has a 10-5 record in the event over Europe, and with the exception of the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany, none of these victories have been all that close. Perhaps its time to tweak the Solheim Cup so that players from throughout the world can compete on an international squad against the Americans, just like in the Presidents Cup. If you ask me, the US is getting off easy right now. They don’t have to worry about So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sung Hyun Park, Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng, In Gee Chun, I.K. Kim, Inbee Park, and Brooke Henderson. That is nine of the Top 10 players in the world and they are all excluded from this tournament!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Searching for the results Monday, interested to see that no sports site even mentioned Karsten’s Cup. There is absolutely no vibe to this event, no matter how many times Paula Creamer (wow, she played her best golf in years as a fill-in) pumps her arm and yells “USA”. The real world knows that the Koreans are dominating women’s golf. SK- vs – The World is what’s happening on the LPGA Tour, but it will never happen as a Cup. That would make it interesting, sort of, like the LPGA Tour its own self.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I think the event is fine as far as it goes and it has delivered some exciting matches over the years. The Lexi Thompson – Anna Nordqvist match is a perfect example. But the depth of field for the Euros has always been a problem. Making the Cup a US vs South Korea match would be too much like what you see every week on the LPGA. My suggestion would be to expand it to include Asians and Internationals along with the US and Euros in a four team competition. Not every team would be strong all the time but it would always showcase the best of women’s golf and that was Louise Solheim’s intention.
Rory McIlroy has now indicated he will play in the FedEx Cup rather than shutting down his season as he indicated after the PGA Championship. McIlroy has been a study in contradictions the past few years and hasn’t lived up to the expectations he set for himself or that others had for him. Is Rory still one of golf’s superstars or should we temper those expectations in the future?
Deeks: Rory certainly has become a bit of an anti-hero, or an un-hero the last couple of years. But then, maybe the world of golf put way too much expectation on him, as did he himself. The good news is, he’s still a pretty good kid, who’s just really still growing up… and while he’s doing that, we’ve got lots of other superhero candidates to enjoy in the meantime — Jordan, Dustin, Jason, Ricky, Justin, and even Hideki. So let’s just let Rory’s universe unfold as it may. He’ll be back in due course.
Kaplan: He’s definitely still one of golf’s superstars. I believe we were having a similar discussion last year at around this time right before the Northern Irishman arose from his year long nap to win two playoff events and the FedEx Cup. And I think we can all remember his ridiculous performance at the Ryder Cup … Sure, he’s had a rough year for his standards, but I have no doubt that he will be back to his normal dominant ways soon enough. No need to temper those expectations.
Quinn: It was disappointing to hear that he wasn’t taking the rest of the faux-season off to heal. Eldrick helped him get the $20 M a year from NIKE but the deeper damage may have been Wood’s Navy Seal ethic. We know that Rory started to get fit because he was challenged by fiancée/text-fired tennis star Wozniaki, but a self-inflicted rib injury is over the top. He also has an upper back muscle thing — rhomboid, the only thing I have in common with Mr. McIlroy, but mine is a strain not a tear but still very painful and distracting — that perhaps may not be eased by his 120-mph assault on the innocent and unsuspecting ball. Not ready to give up on Rory, he can (if he’s fit) run the table and shut us all up, again.
Mumford: The enigma that is Rory McIlroy is the gift that keeps on giving. At least to golf writers. Most would agree that he’s probably top three in the world in terms of pure talent but he’s way down the list when it comes to comparable results, especially lately. I’d say the best we can hope for from Mr. McIlroy is unparalleled excitement when he’s on and confusion and frustration when he’s not. If he ever finds the switch to make it all work on command, maybe he can tell us when it’s going to happen because making predictions about Rory is impossible.
The FedEx Cup playoffs would seem to be pretty wide open with up to a dozen players at the top of their game and having a pretty good chance to win that $10 million cheque at East Lake. Who do you see prevailing at the end and which player folds like a cheap tent?
Deeks: Having said what I said above, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Rory is your 2017 FedEx Cup Champion. Whether I mean McIlroy or Sabbatini, you’ll have to figure it out!
Kaplan: I think DJ gets its done this year after having the trophy stolen away from him by Rory in the Tour Championship last year. Johnson hasn’t won a tournament since March, but he has three finishes of T17 or better in his last three tournaments and appears to be re-rounding into form at the perfect time to get it done. Spieth is also always a very good bet, as are Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas, who have all been spectacular at certain points over the last six weeks. As much as I like him, I think Jon Rahm falls apart over the next month. Rahm has really been playing poorly recently with two cuts and zero finishes better than a tie for 28th over his last five starts. Personally, I’m rooting for Adam Hadwin to win it all. The Moose Jaw native currently sits in 13th place in the standings and is in a great position to strike if he can have some success in any of the next three events leading up to the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Quinn: It’s a pug’s game to call a winner of this pseudo-competition. Is this the year when we get another Haas or Horschel or Furyk? Who cares? It’s the one-percenters of golf making even more, with the winner — worthy or not — getting a cheque that sets up his grandkids for a rack of silver spoons. Thank Gawd for the NFL.
Mumford: My hunch is that Justin Thomas will just keep on winning all the way to the end. The kid has remarkable talent and now has the added confidence of winning a major. If not Thomas, I expect the winner to emerge from the current Top 5 (Matsuyama, Spieth, DJ and Fowler) and don’t think anyone will emerge from way down the list. As for some player folding up in the heat of battle, I think Charley Hoffman is playing so far over his head, he’s likely to choke on the rarefied air. (Note to readers: Don’t go betting the farm on my predictions but if you want a pretty good long shot, bet on Charley Hoffman. My record is abysmal.)