WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT RORY
Godich: It was another lost week for McIlroy, who a year after getting to the final was bounced in the first round by Shane Lowry. Rory's iron play was especially loose. Is anybody getting more concerned about the equipment change? And because we're so good at this kind of stuff, what advice would you give Rory?
Garrity: Rory has played only three competitive rounds since the season started, so I don't see how you can reach any sweeping conclusions about his game. Clearly, he's rusty, but he endured a long stretch like this last year, with the attendant weeping and wailing of most of us in the press tent. And he wound up winning his second major and taking Player of the Year honors. Advice for Rory? I'd pass along Satchel Paige's sound advice to avoid fried foods that angry up the blood.
Ritter: I was concerned about Rory's equipment change to begin with, which is why I predicted an adjustment period that lasts until June. Can't back off that one now. I think the problem Rory faces is new pressure from new places. Every bad round - heck, every bad SHOT - creates new questions and more pressure. "What about those clubs, Rory?" My advice: play more golf. All it takes is one victory for things to normalize.
Shipnuck: He's played exactly three rounds of golf this year - the sample size is too small to make the call yet. My only advice is to maybe add one more pre-Masters tourney. As we know, it's all about the reps.
Morfit: I'm concerned about the equipment change because all the talk about it is going to get into Rory's head, if it hasn't already. The Match Play was a lousy event for him because you can't really start slow and play your way into it. And I don't think the Honda is a great event for him, either, because it'll be so easy to measure his performance against what he did last year. And if he's that wild with his irons, he's going to hit a lot of balls into the water at PGA National.
Stoda: Concerned? No. McIlroy's too good not to figure out how to play with this new equipment. But it might take a year -- a disappointing one, by his standards -- to get it done. There's a huge difference between testing sticks and taking on the PGA Tour with 'em. And he'll get annoyed with the questions on the subject (see: this week at Honda Classic). He only lives about five miles from me, so I'd be happy to go to his house and ask him before he gets peppered at the pre-tournament group interview.
Walker: McIlroy just needs to play more. He'll adjust to the equipment and the heightened expectations, but it's hard to prepare for a golf tournament from a tennis event in Monte Carlo.
Lynch: He's played three competitive rounds with new equipment, and these were the first three rounds of his season. There's no reason for either wringing of hands or ringing of alarm bells. My advice to McIlroy: Ignore any of my colleagues who offer a view contrary to mine.
Van Sickle: Rory is just rusty from a long break. His takeaway was clearly off on a number of iron shots, an easy fix. He's going to have a long adjustment period because he changed everything at once. But right now, his swing is off. Fixing that is step one.
Wei: Keep doing what you're doing, kid. Don't read any what we're saying because we're just spouting opinions.
Bamberger: Rees Jones sized up the issue perfectly the other day: it's not the clubs, it's the pressure. I am sure he'll be fine. He was down last year for a spell and look what happened. I'm more worried about me than I am Rory McIlroy. Tuition bills and I'm shooting 90.
GREAT MOMENTS IN MATCH-PLAY HISTORY
Godich: Charles Howell III had the honor of sending Tiger home early. On the front nine, Chuck conceded a rather generous three-footer to his good buddy. The Golf Channel crew suggested maybe that was why Howell could never beat Woods. Later, however, Howell explained that he didn't want to make Woods angry because he was less dangerous when he wasn't riled up. Thinking such of this is one of the beauties of match play. I could go on for hours about my domination of Stoda on the golf course over the years. Tell me. What's your favorite match-play story?
Garrity: I covered the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, where Phil Mickelson conceded a 30-foot par putt to his opponent on the first hole of a match before draining his own missable putt for birdie. Phil had that match won before it reached the second tee.
Wei: Two years ago when Jason Day wouldn't give Paul Casey any putts in their match and got into Casey's head a bit. Classic gamesmanship and it worked. Day still wouldn't give 3-footers because he said unless you're 100 percent from 0-3 feet, he wouldn't give you that putt -- and nobody is 100 percent from that range.
Ritter: Cutting a hybrid from 202 yards to three feet to set up a winning birdie against Golf.com's Kevin Cunningham on our 20th hole in the office match play tournament. They will be talking about that one for years (and by "they" I mean "me").
Van Sickle: I like Brian Barnes taking down Jack Nicklaus in the Ryder Cup singles matches in the morning. A rematch was arranged for the afternoon singles and Barnes took him down again.
Bamberger: Seventeen, Phiadelphia Cricket Club. Grudge match against another writer. I'm one down. We're both in jail. I hit a career shot to an inch. This match is going level. He holes out to win.
Walker: Professional golf hustler Dewey Tomko told me that nobody can play well after they get off an airplane. (He thinks it's the change in air pressure.) Dewey'll send a limo to the airport to bring his mark to the course and then play a match for as much as the guy can afford.
Lynch: I played my boss, David Clarke, at Spanish Peaks in Montana a few years ago. I was one-down on 17 and in with 6. He had a 15-footer for three. I won the match. He asked our host how the putt would break, so I claimed the hole since he asked for outside advice. On the par-5 18th, our 36th hole of the day, he missed a two-footer that would have halved the hole with 9s.
Morfit: Watching Poulter play out of his mind at Medinah was fun. And I like the story (which I included in a piece last week) about Vijay Singh running into Bernhard Langer after they'd both won first-round matches at the Accenture, and asking, "What hole do you want me to send you in from tomorrow, Bernhard?" Langer just kept smiling and practicing his putting stroke, and he sent Singh home the next day.
Stoda: It's true that I've never beaten Godich. It's also true that he has never conceded a putt of any length beyond a foot to me or anyone else that I know of. That's my favorite match-play story, and I'm sticking with it.