PGA Tour Confidential: The best Tour player under 30, Tiger's major drought and how to fix slow play

Rory McIlroy
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After a forgettable 2013, Rory McIlroy is off to a solid start in the early goings of the 2013-14 season.

3. There's been some conjecture that Rory McIlroy might be "back" after a second in Korea, outdueling Tiger Woods in an exhibition and his T6 finish in Shanghai. Is he back, and if so, how did he turn it around?

BAMBERGER: No, those two finishes are blips, not statements about where his game is. But it's always better to play well. It's always better to have some positive reinforcement.

SHIPNUCK: Well, the field in Korea was weak sauce, the exhibition with Tiger was utterly meaningless, and the T6 at the HSBC is okay but for the fact Rory failed to build on his first-round lead and pretty much got run over on Sunday. So, no, he's back quite yet.

MORFIT: He is most of the way back, and I say that because I didn't see that one outrageously high score among his four rounds -- his bugaboo in 2013. He won't be all the way back, of course, until he wins a real tournament, not an exhibition match against Tiger. How did he turn it around? I can only assume the slight modification to his equipment -- different driver, softer ball -- has helped, as has taking the time to let his life settle back into place. Maybe he's getting his personal life in order -- also good for golf.

VAN SICKLE: Rory is back when he starts winning tournaments against real fields. He got sidetracked by life, distractions and an ill-advised total equipment change that predictably has taken most of a year to adjust to. He's not back until he proves it but I think he will fairly soon.

RITTER: He’s on his way. McIlroy had his share of distractions this season -- and maybe he’s finally making the on- and off-course adjustments -- but good players do occasionally have bad years. What did Luke Donald or Bubba Watson do this season? What are their excuses? McIlroy entered 2013 squarely in the spotlight after claiming No. 1 and inking that Nike deal, and he experienced the scrutiny that comes with it. He has to start winning big events again before we can say he’s all the way back, but this China swing has provided some new reasons for optimism.

SENS: Back. Not back. It's not so black and white. Dull as it to hear Tiger say it, he's right. It's a process. You've got to think that Rory is on his way back into form. Why? Prolly playing less weekday tennis.

GODICH: Rory won't be back until he starts winning again. And I'm not talking about winning just one. 

PASSOV: I still drool, slack-jawed, every time Rory swings a golf club. He is NOT back just yet, however. We thought so after his T2 at San Antonio in May, and then he soiled the bed for five months. Let him post some Jordan Spieth consistency for two months and I'll be the first to say "he's baaaaack."

4. The PGA Tour announced this week that it is partnering with a new tour in China that will increase access for Web.com players, among others. How should we read this? As golf's globalization? Or the decline of the game here in the States?

SENS: Less about the decline of golf than the decline of the United States as source of sponsorship dollars. It's the Willie Sutton bank-robbing rule. They're going there because that's where the money is.

PASSOV: Except where it concerns money -- and nothing else -- I'm mystified by these globalization ambitions from the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. Is this like the NFL games in London? Expand the brand? Unless Tiger Woods is in the field, I don't understand why Asian fans or sponsors would have any interest.

BAMBERGER: This thinking does not come naturally to me, but it's time to think of golf in a global way and forget the natural borders by country. If viewed that way, the growth of Chinese golf does not come at the expense of American golf. I think the PGA Tour administers golf expertly and if T. Finchem and the Ponte Vedrans are taking that expertise to China, that's a good thing all the way around.

RITTER: There are a billion people in China, and some of them are interested in golf. The Tour can’t ignore it.

VAN SICKLE: The Tour is following the money. There are anxious sponsors, apparently, in Asia, and the Tour wants to get into their wallets since the American market is largely tapped out. Tournament golf is growing around the world, no doubt about that. That's not necessarily good for the game in America. See LPGA for details.

MORFIT: It's an acknowledgement of the vast population of a country, China, where golf is actually doing well. Like so much else that the Tour or any other business does, this is a calculated bet on the future. And that goes double for Augusta National deciding to start awarding a Masters invite to the winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. 

GODICH: Tim Finchem is no dummy. Growing the game means exploring untapped markets. Why do you think the NFL keeps going back to London?

SHIPNUCK: Nah, I don't think this will hurt golf in the U.S. at all. Finchem has always had a global vision -- he midwifed the Prez Cup and WGCs -- and this is the next logical step.

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