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Chipping In - McIlroy masterclass | Time for Tiger to take a break

By: Golf Shake | Tue 12 Aug 2014

Chipping In is a weekly column from Golfing Journalist Nick Bonfield 

McIlroy masterclass

Well, the 2014 USPGA Championship offered proof, if any was needed, that Rory McIlroy has the talent, temperament and capacity to, at the very least, reach double digits in major victories, and at best, threaten Jack Nicklaus’ all-time major record. Naysayers will claim he doesn’t possess the same intrinsic desire, work ethic and ruthlessness as a Jack or a Tiger, but those arguments have far less weight given the nature of the Ulsterman’s victory as darkness enveloped Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky. I’m not necessarily saying I think Rory will usurp Jack, or even Tiger, but bear this in mind: only three other people have/had won four major championships by the age of 25 – Nicklaus, Woods and Bobby Jones. One is the best player the world has ever seen, the other is a genuine rival in that category and the third could have been had he not decided to give up competitive golf in favour of other pursuits.


But what was so impressive about McIlroy’s victory in Kentucky was his display of backs-against-the-wall resilience, character and grit when it looked liked the championship had slipped away from him. In his first two major victories – the 2011 US Open and the 2012 USPGA Championship – he broke records and he wasn’t truly threatened at The Open, but this was the diametric opposite. With most predicting another runway victory, the field came at him with purpose and conviction. Indeed, as he stood on the 10th fairway, contemplating his second to a par 5 that no one had hit in two all day, he was three behind Fowler. Yes, his approach was somewhat fortuitous, but he holed the catalytic eagle putt to spur himself into action. After missing two great chances on 11 and 12, he buried an eight-footer on 13 to recapture a share of the lead, negotiated the tough 14th, 15th and 16th holes with consummate ease and converted a 10-foot birdie putt after a magnificent approach from sand on the 17th hole to move two clear.

After that, victory was inevitable, even if his drive on the 18th hole in virtual darkness settled feet from the hazard. He played up to the greenside bunker, pitched out and two-putted for the most hard-fought of wins. McIlroy had already won three majors, but this was the tournament where he came of age. Previously, a lack of fight could be the only criticism leveled at the Nothern Irishman, but that is no longer applicable. He faced a stern challenge from some world-class golfers, rose to the occasion with impressive tenacity and came out on top – the mark of a real winner. You can’t help but feel sorry for the likes of Fowler and Jordan Spieth, whose careers just so happen to coincide with a player who looks destined to become one of the best golfers of all time.

Time for Tiger to take a break

Once again, it was sad to see the disconsolate figure of Tiger Woods moping around Valhalla with a back injury he just can’t seem to shake. He isn’t doing anyone any favours – least of all himself - by trudging around in sullen fashion, exacerbating an injury that could plague him for the rest of his career. I could understand him carrying on in the second round if he planned to play this week’s Wyndham Championship, but he isn’t in the field. If he’s not in the Wyndham, he’s not in the FedEx Cup playoffs and he’s not in the Ryder Cup team. It’s as simple as that. So why did he continue to play on Friday, when he had tweaked his back, wasn’t fit in the first place and clearly needed a miracle to make the cut? I just feel sorry for the person who wasn’t able to play because of Tiger’s insistence on competing in a tournament he had absolutely no chance of winning. It was clearly a case of disillusionment caused by his inherent self-belief (at least that hasn’t diminished, unlike the quality of his golf). Woods now needs to go away, get healthy, learn to drive the ball again and come back with renewed vigor for the 2015 Masters. Forget the Ryder Cup. There are tens, if not hundreds, of American golfers who deserve a pick more than Tiger does.


Awesome advert for golf

The final round of the PGA Championship – and indeed the whole tournament – was an absolutely spellbinding affair. Having Mickelson, Fowler and McIlroy going head-to-head in all-out-attack mode should go a long way to persuading media outlets, casual golf viewers and the wider sporting world that golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods. I’m not saying his presence on the leaderboard wouldn’t have enhanced the drama, nor denying he’s the sport’s single biggest draw, but there’s so much to else be excited about. In McIlroy and Fowler, we have two genuine superstars who play with aggression and flair, paint the game in a positive light and, perhaps most significantly, have the ability to inspire thousands of youngsters. Fowler has provided endless excitement in majors this season, and, if it wasn’t for McIlroy’s brilliance, could have had two titles to his name. Still, it won’t be long until the two do battle again. The Ryder Cup, with any luck!

US Ryder Cup team

The USPGA Championship was the final US Ryder Cup qualifying event, and a number of notable names will have to rely on a captain’s pick from Tom Watson. Here are the nine who made the team: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson. That leaves the likes of Ryan Moore, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker on the outside looking in. Much will depend on the ensuing FedEx Cup play-offs, but if I were Watson, I’d go for Bradley, Moore and Snedeker.

Next week, the PGA Tour is in North Carolina for the Wyndham Championship, while the European Tour heads to Scandinavia for Made in Denmark, a new event this season.

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Tags: tiger woods ryder cup rory mcilroy

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