Over of the last two weekends, we’ve been forced into watching a couple of golf tournaments with no Rory McIlroy when there should have been. He missed a chance to defend his title at both the Open Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational with his ruptured ankle or whatever, and we all were worse off for it. But luckily, he’s said he is good to go this weekend, and he’ll finally get a chance to defend his 2014 win in one of these things.
So, yeah, this was a pretty good stretch for Rory last year. And he’s played a few practice rounds at Whistling Straits and come away saying “I am ready to play and I expect to do well,” according to The Guardian. His win last year, of course, didn’t come here, but at Valhalla – but he also finished T3 here back in 2010, just one shot out of a playoff.
He has the game for this course the way he has the game for every course, like we’ve seen out of Spieth this year and greats like Tiger and Phil in years past (and countless others further back in history). When you can hit every shot, it’s not the course in control anymore – it comes down to the player’s consistency and focus and mental strength. This is why, to the very best, when all the necessary skills are present, every loss feels like a failure, which is exactly why we love watching these guys play. When skill is no longer the difference and it comes down to will, we know we’re watching greatness.
If you read my PGA Insights or the PGA Targets column, you’ll see I specifically don’t endorse picking Rory or Spieth for your lineups. But that’s not because I think they can’t win – of course they can. They’re the best players in the world.
The problem is, that’s built into their price, and rightfully so. And when you spend that much money on a single player, they basically have to win. T2 in a playoff or something might cut it, but if they don’t get that far, you overspent.
On top of that, this is an interesting course, because it is certainly challenging, but with the right approach, a lot of different types of players can be successful. In other words, someone like Spieth or Rory could theoretically run into some struggles, while someone else you don’t expect who just comes in with a good approach might find success. And if more players have a chance of doing well, the odds of these super-elites living up to their price tag when they cost so much are necessarily reduced.
But I will say one thing: Rory and Spieth have been paired together for Thursday and Friday – can you think of anything better than them being paired again on Sunday, come down the back nine neck and neck? Me either.