I was thoroughly excited this week to see that my application into the Golf Journalists Association of Canada was accepted. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to join the group, and we’ll see the kinds of opportunities it opens up for me. Big thank you to Scott from Flagstick for allowing me a spot to post my work!
The Ror by the Shore
What was supposed to be a struggle for the world’s best golfers at the PGA Championship, the final major of the year, turned into a romp by the best of the best. Rory McIlroy, the young Irishman, started the day with a three-shot lead over Carl Pettersson – who was the first round leader – but by the end of the day the lead had swelled to a Tiger-like eight strokes. McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open by the same eight-stroke margin was dominant in all aspects of game. He began to pull away from the field with a Saturday 67, and then closed with a near-perfect 66 in blustery, weather-delayed conditions on Sunday. Ian Poulter – McIlroy’s soon-to-be Ryder Cup teammate – began the final round with a charge by making five birdies in a row, but he admitted later that he ran out of gas. McIlroy was just too much, and the 23-year-old is now halfway to the Grand Slam of Golf. It seems odd that the first two that he won, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, are the two that many felt would be harder for him to win. His game seems tailor-made for The Masters, and, having grown up in Northern Ireland, one would think that winning the British Open would be an easier task than winning across the pond in the U.S. However, it may actually be the British which proves to be the toughest for him to win.
For the second time in 2012, Tiger Woods co-lead heading into the weekend of a major championship, only to fade and not be a factor by the time the final putt dropped on Sunday. There was a time not so long ago when a Tiger Woods lead on Friday night meant most of the field should just pack their bags, the tournament was over. Not so anymore. Come April 2013, it will be nearly five years since Tiger last won a major – the 2008 U.S. Open – and these were supposed to be the prime years of his career. How many other top-tier athletes go through the ages of 31-36 without achieving something spectacular? We’ve seen that many golfers can turn a whole career around after 40 – take Steve Stricker, for example – but with the influx of young, fearless golfers, reaching the elusive total of 19 majors of Tiger may be more difficult than even he expected. This is the golden age for golf though. Rory McIlroy, clad in a red Sunday shirt – long a Sunday wardrobe staple for Woods– now owns two major championships at the age of 23, more than Tiger had at McIlroy’s age. Tiger still has a handful of tournaments left in 2012, and the Ryder Cup, but even if he runs the table with victories, will he look back at this season and call it a success? No, because he’ll be missing one of the four trophies that mean the most.
Ryder Cup Round-Up
The conclusion of the PGA Championship also marks the final tournament for members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team to be automatically selected for the team via a points system. The lucky eight: Woods, Watson, Dufner, Bradley, Simpson, Johnson, Kuchar, and Mickelson. From top to bottom, probably one of the strongest Ryder Cup teams that the U.S. have fielded in quite some time (see: 2006) and for the first time since maybe 1999 the U.S. should be considered favourites on paper prior to the matches. Captain Davis Love III is in an enviable position with his four captain picks upcoming. No one would scrutinize him for choosing the guys who finished nine through 12 on the points list, but as the saying goes, a captain always wants to choose guys who are playing their best golf. If I was Love, I would absolutely pick Jim Furyk (5-0 at the 2011 President’s Cup, pair him with Keegan Bradley), Rickie Fowler (team sparkplug, pair him with Bubba Watson), Hunter Mahan (two wins on the season, pair him with Tiger Woods), and Steve Stricker (veteran presence, Tiger Woods’ crutch the past few years in team events). This would leave guys like Bo Van Pelt, Dustin Johnson, and Brandt Snedeker on the outside looking in, but those guys just don’t have the leadership capabilities of a Furyk or Stricker, not to mention Dustin Johnson being out for most of 2012 because of injury. The only dark-horse I can see coming quietly into the picture may be Bill Haas, currently 17th on the points standings. Last year’s FedEx Cup champion already has a win this year and could try extra hard to re-capture some of last year’s magic with the FedEx playoffs just around the corner.
Winning at the Wyndham
Many of the golfers who played in last week’s PGA Championship have taken a pass this week in preparation for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, but the field at the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina still includes a handful of the world’s best. Webb Simpson is the defending champion, and also the reigning U.S. Open champ. He was off for four weeks after the birth of his second child, and missed the cut at the PGA last week. Don’t expect him to be a factor this week. Many are already predicting this, but it’s hard to think that Carl Pettersson won’t do well. He’s already won here before in 2008, and is coming off a great performance last week – where he led or co-led for most of the tournament. But as I alluded to earlier, look for Bill Haas to start proving to Davis Love that maybe he belongs on the Ryder Cup team after all this week.