First, let’s remember where this year started for Rory.
Hard to imagine, but yes, a mere gentleman-amatuer by the name of Jeff Knox clipped Rory by a stroke on Saturday at The Masters.
That was back when his fiancee had pink hair, and was lovingly toting his forged blades around the Par-3 contest.
Events and life have since mashed the “turbo” button for the – new, and foreseeable future – World’s Number One.
In the middle of a Cat-5 hurricane of flower arrangements, guest lists, and rehearsal dinner menu choices, Rory had a genuine “what the fuck am I doing?” moment.
Since then…. ka-boom.
And it started with a window-rattling, come-from-behind, final round 66 at the BMW PGA at Wentworth to hoist his first single-man-again trophy. Amazing enough in a normal week, but even more so because he began that Wednesday with the most brutally stand-up presser a modern athlete could possibly give.
He faced the imaginary sad music in front of the press corps, question by question. And handled it with class and decency.
No wonder now, he’s dominating the game of golf like few have done in history. The kid just knows how to “handle things.” Life is teaching, and he’s taking excellent notes.
‘I think what happened has been for the better in terms of my golf,’ he revealed.
‘I’ve put a bit more time into it and it has refocused me. I mean, what else do I have to do now?
‘I go to the golf course, I go to the gym and it’s just my life at the minute.
‘I worked pretty hard before but the past couple of months I’ve really just buried myself in my game. It obviously works pretty well, so I am going to keep doing it.’
McIlroy is playing so well, he’s changing all the questions.
What was once: “Will Tiger catch Jack?”
Has now become: “Will Rory pass Tiger?”
Nicklaus has already sounded the claxon, though sometimes I wonder if Jack’s statements about his record, Tiger, and any other pursuers isn’t just the old man’s way of trolling folks.
McIlroy is truly something amazing to watch. Forget any and all measurables, just use the “eye test.” Does he look like the rest of them out there right now?
Not often in sports do you see something so amazing, that you have to ask yourself over and over: “Did that just really happen?”
McIlroy’s driver-9-iron-to-2-feet on #16 on Saturday did that to me. Are you kidding me? And he make it look effortless.
Which brings me, to the Tiger in the room.
After watching that farce play out more predictably than an episode of Three’s Company, I am trying to figure out just who Tiger Woods is trying to con?
Himself? Or us?
What does one make of somebody who chirpily and cheerily declares himself fit and “good to go” on Wednesday, and then on his way out of town Friday night says in essence: “Well, I couldn’t make a backswing, so I pretty much had no chance?” What do you think about a guy who has a 50-yard two-way-miss off the tee, yet insists better days are just a few thousand stomach crunches and glute-busters ahead?
How do you even play that ball?
As my buddy Cowboy Mike said to me: “He’s either a liar or a fool. Likely, both.”
Great athletes con themselves all the time about their ability to “gut it out.” And they also love to play the media for dupes whenever possible. But usually, even the best touch bottom on the limits of their own bullshit.
I guess Tiger is still feeling around for that bottom.
Most laughable to me, was how Tiger insisted on Wednesday – fresh after lacing up his spikes on his bumper – that “you could see, I had my speed back” out there on his 9-hole practice “round.”
Speed my ass. Tiger has a strained, muscle clenching lash these days. And that’s even before the back went out.
The new breed on Tour has speed that is whisper quiet, and perfectly in balance. Rory. Ricky. Adam. Jason. Every time you see a slow mo of Tiger coming through impact, you can see his cheeks bellow out like Louis Armstrong from all of the effort.
Tiger will never have driver-9-iron power on 505 yard par-4’s anymore. Never. And it sure as shit won’t be as straight either. So he’s going to have to find other ways to win, and fixing his putting might be a good start.
I can’t be the only one to notice that he’s now missing 8 footers with “wrong-way” reads that end up moving away from the hole, can I? Hell, that shit pisses ME off when I see it coming off my putter blade – and I suck! Everybody who thinks Tiger could have made the necessary bushel of 5-footers to stay “in it” like Fowler did all day, raise your hand.
Now the fun begins. Ryder Cup? Fall series? New coach? Another surgery?
More importantly, is the con, still on?
A quick last word on the PGA Championship’s hurried finish. On the one hand, it was great fun to see the game treated like game should always be treated: boyish fun, until the daylight is gone.
On the other hand, you would think an association of professionals who BRAG about RUNNING TOURNAMENTS at their home clubs all year long, could…. wait for it… wait…. RUN ONE GODDAMN MAJOR TOURNAMENT A YEAR CORRECTLY!
Move up tee times on Sunday because it is almost certain to rain for a 4th straight day? Pffft! Nah, why do that?
Wait until the course is ACTUALLY playable, not just THEORETICALLY playable by the proper rules of golf? Screw that!
More importantly, how about you know a train wreck waiting to happen when you see it, Professional Golfers of America? The haphazard way they rushed the final groups up 18 was practically begging for a more clusterfucked finish than when Dustin Johnson played out of a “bunker” that had been raped by 50,000 fans for a week.
Tactically speaking the rushed finish HURT McIlroy the most. Not only did he not benefit from knowing what both Phil and Ricky would have posted on 18 in front of him to help guide his own strategy, but hello, it was almost dark!
Do you think Rory could PAR 18 after a good night’s rest, a large bucket of range balls, and a dry course in broad daylight?
Yeah, so do I. Like 101 times out of 100.
A bladed sand shot by Rory in the gloaming – he admitted the depth perception in the bunker was extremely challenging – and the finish might have been marred forever. And before you say “boo hoo Rory, it’s your fault for deciding to finish out” remember that it would have asterisked Phil’s amazing comeback victory as less than pure.
A lose-lose both ways.
All I know is this: When you see tournament officials taking a PILE of white laundry towels and dopping up water on a tee-box just minutes before blowing the horn to resume…. the course IS NOT PLAYABLE.