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.
On Sunday, Rory McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational going away, even adding a birdie for emphasis on the last hole. McIlroy had been the subject of some doubt leading into the API based on sketchy putting and a couple of missed cuts. What was your take on Rory’s performance at Bay Hill?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Outstanding! I’m a big fan of McIlroy’s and I’m delighted to see him back. See my comment below on Q3.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Rory played great that final round. Splendid really, clean card 64 to secure the win. And yes he putted well. Can’t argue with any of that. I don’t have a big issue with Rory and his play other than his game has been inconsistent for the last year, he’s either great or not so great, lives and dies as so many excellent ball strikers have by his putter.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I’ve always been a Rory fan! I was/am worried about complacency based on his $200M bank account combined with his heavy weight lifting routine. Rory should be THE player of this time but he has taken a little time out of the spotlight. The best players of their time were never side tracked by success; they were driven to win championships. As for the lifting heavy weights, a putter weighs less than a pound. Having said that, he is one major shy of the ‘career grand slam’ and when he is in full flight like he was at Bay Hill, he soars like an eagle.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): He looked like vintage Rory McIlroy out there as he dropped in five birdies over his last six holes. It was only a matter of time until McIlroy’s putts were going to start falling, and he appeared to make up for his previous putting woes all at once with that incredible final stretch. As we have seen in the past, McIlroy is pretty much unbeatable when he is firing on all cylinders. He is extremely long and accurate off of the tee, has a tremendous approach game, and stupendous touch around the greens. And we saw a glimpse of that complete skillset on Sunday. If this was not just a flash in the pan and the Northern Irishman can continue to play at this level, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of McIlroy in the winner’s circle going forward.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, we all knew he would break out at some point. He’s a great player, but has been plagued by cold streaks throughout his career, many blaming them on things going on in his personal life. But now that he’s happily married and healthy, there’s no reason he can’t go on a Tiger-like run and become the best player in the world. His mediocre putting will never allow him to contend in every event in which he plays, but what this past week told us is that he certainly can dominate an event, and is ready to compete at the majors this year.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: My cell phone was chirping and buzzing as Rory played the back nine Sunday — couldn’t respond as I’d recorded it to fast forward past the five commercials every four shots and not have to endure Koch’s I-Me-Me fest. Watching that brilliant display and return of the Rory who shocked the world was as much fun as any tournament in recent memory. And when I finally got to the texts — after watching that 375-yard pin point drive and that stunning shot into 18 — they were all about the joy of watching Rory ‘on song.’ Based on the number of texts and then calls later and on Monday, the still-young man from Holywood moves the needle too.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): If there’s such a thing as the Big 3 of talent – Rory McIlroy is part of it. When he’s firing on all cylinders he’s unbeatable. At the API he got his putter to perform up to the standard of the rest of his game and the result was beautiful to watch.
During Saturday’s broadcast of the API, the NBC talking heads were quite critical of Bryson DeChambeau’s pre-shot routine, his “course guide” book and all the time he takes. On one hole he froze playing partner Henrik Stenson for nearly five minutes while he lined up a putt. Were Miller and Company warranted in their criticism or is this the new normal on Tour?
Deeks: I didn’t see this unfold, but in principle I agree with Miller & Co. I can’t understand why the PGA doesn’t enforce the shot clock. It’s selfish of the slow player, unfair to his playing partners, and excruciating for the television audience. Get over yourself Bryson and find a new routine.
Loughry: Well, pace is so brutal out of Tour, so SLOW. I know it’s a combination of things, but paralysis by analysis may end of being DeChambeau’s trademark rather than his intellect. Man is he slow most of the time. And if I hear one more announcer say he’s playing smart, smart shot, using his intelligence, I’m going to throw something at my TV, or maybe just hit mute when he’s in contention.
Schurman: The Tour is a business organization owned and operated by the players. They are in the unique position of needing support from the public but they don’t answer to the public which is a shame! No other group has more influence over the masses and although they seem to take this responsibility seriously they still conduct their affairs with great privacy and secrecy. Nobody knows how many times and/or in what amounts Tiger has been fined for the use of profanity but the rumor is he leads the tour. Nobody knows who and how many times players have been fined or admonished for slow play. Why not? All this scientific study takes too much time! When a player takes 7 to 8 times the amount of time allotted to play their shots without penalty something is wrong. On Saturday, the telecast was cut-off at 6:00 with several players still on the course. The only reason coverage wasn’t extended is because Tiger had finished his round. Shot clocks all around!
Kaplan: The PGA Tour has a real problem on its hands because slow play storylines seem to be emerging from the circuit every week these days. It has become the new normal and it is awful to watch on television. Plus, the prominence of slow play on the pro circuit basically lets amateur players know that it is OK to take their sweet time whenever they are playing. IT IS NOT! The PGA Tour needs to stomp this out for the good of the game, even if it means doling out stroke penalties to some of the tour’s most popular players down the final stretches of tournaments.
Rule: They are certainly warranted, and the media need to keep harping on slow play because it’s not necessary, and it’s hurting the game. I can’t wait until Keith Pelley is the commissioner of the PGA Tour, and the shot clock is introduced!
Quinn: Miller & Co. were way too soft on this new Human Rain Delay, even though Miller keeps pretending to be the unfiltered brave guy who can say it like it is. He never did, and never will. And, can’t stand the BS that the group had been warned but not put on the clock. DeChambeau should have been warned and put on the clock. The Tour Official (sic) should then have told Stenson he’s not warned and not on the clock, offered Stenson nothing but sympathy, and an apology for not having any sanction to enforce on the other guy. Stenson should have pulled a Sabatini and just gone ahead. The hole in front was open.
Mumford: For twenty years Tim Finchem kept all the player issues hidden behind a cloak of secrecy and we never knew about suspensions and fines. The primary reason for this was to protect the PGA Tour brand and keep the sponsor money flowing. It’s possible that new commissioner Jay Monahan has already fined DeChambeau for his slow play and ridiculous routines but change won’t happen until the players themselves stand up and say, “No more. I’m not playing with that doofus.” And it has to be made public. The TV analysts are absolutely correct to call him out and should be even more emphatic about it.
The Masters is still a few weeks away but it’s shaping up to be quite a battle with most of the world’s top ranked players playing well and even a couple of veteran past champions rounding into form. Right now who’s your pick to win the Masters and why?
Deeks: This year’s Masters has so much excitement building, with a renewed Rory, a renewed Tiger, a rejuvenated Phil, DJ playing well, Jason Day playing well, Sergio playing well, etc. etc. The only one who hasn’t peaked out from the bushes yet is Jordan Spieth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got it together within the next three weeks. Anyway, glad to have Rory back in the mix. I just pray they don’t all choke and someone like Patrick Reed slides up the middle. My pick to win? Just for fun, I’m going with Henrik Stenson, who’s also playing well, and with one masterful major victory in his past, can summon nerves of steel to win.
Loughry: It’s going to be one heck of a Masters this year, at least leading up to it, you have so many stories building the drama. Rory, Mickelson, Rahm, DJ, Bubba, Thomas, and Jason Day all winners in recent months. And now you have Tiger throwing his hat into the ring making some noise. LOOKOUT, save me a front row seat for 4 days. My pick for the Masters, my want is Tiger, but my head is telling me Rahm is going to do it this year. He’s been ripping it up for months, a close second would be Justin Thomas, and TW is my wildcard pick, I’ll guarantee a top 10 if he’s injury/pain free.
Schurman: This Masters is like a ‘cooking contest’; nobody cares who wins, we are all going to eat well! Rory, Phil, Jason, Justin, Dustin, Jordan, Bubba, Rickie, Jon, Tiger, Sergio, Henrick…..all arrive in great form. I don’t recall another season when so many of the best players in the world were playing so well entering the ‘major season’. Nothing would please me more than to see Sergio repeat but I think the best money is on Rose. He has played well there. He is has the best swing on tour. He is a wonderful driver and long too! He is the best iron player on tour. He is a solid performer with a major championship victory. Like everyone else, he has to knock a few in. At 16 to 1, I pick Justin Rose. However, if you want to step-out a bit and make some easy cash take Thomas Pieters at 60 to 1.
Kaplan: I like Justin Rose’s chances. The Englishman is not only off to one of the best putting seasons of his career, he also has racked up five finishes of T8 or better in six events on the PGA Tour this season. And he has been the runner up at Augusta National twice in his last three starts there. Plus, I think it would be pretty fitting if Garcia got to place the green jacket on his friend’s shoulders exactly one year after defeating him in a playoff at the Masters.
Rule: I’m more excited for this year’s Masters than any in the past 10 years, with top players rounding into form and Tiger and Phil back in the serious conversation. What a week it should be. It’s hard to handicap at this time, but I feel that Dustin Johnson is going to win this tournament sooner than later, and this could be the year. I obviously hope it will be a Tiger-Rory battle on Sunday, but DJ may just atone for missing last year’s event by finally pulling on the green jacket.
Quinn: As the books in Vegas reel in the suckers with that phoney line on Eldrick, my money (Know your limit, play within it) is on guys whose tee shots find fairways not hospitality tents. Notah Begay (Roman numeral of choice here), long time Eldrick pal, said on the Dan Patrick Show that players have to hit driver at Augusta National, adding that driver is the best club in Rory’s bag and the worst club in Eldrick’s. And that’s from a friend! Rory wearin’ o’ the green of a Sunday evening would be ceartaiseach (righteous).
Mumford: Three players can complete their personal Grand Slams this year – McIlroy at the Masters, Mickelson at the U.S. Open and Spieth at the PGA Championship – and it’s likely they’ll be the sentimental favourites at those events. Usually, “sentimental favourite” also means a long shot but in this case none of them are underdogs. With the exception of Spieth, all of the world’s top players are on form heading to the Masters so it could be a celebrity laden leaderboard. I think it comes down to a shootout between Dustin Johnson and McIlroy, with the Northern Irishman nabbing the green jacket.