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Van Cynical Mailbag: Will Rory McIlroy Play Again in 2015?

McIlroy Spokesman Denies Planned Practice Round
A spokesman for Rory McIlroy is denying a Reuters report that the world No. 1 is planning a practice round at Whistling Straits ahead of the PGA Championship. 

AKRON, Ohio—Jay Haas and Nick Price got together here Tuesday as the opposing captains for the upcoming Presidents Cup in Korea. You know, that team event that you haven’t spent one minute thinking about until now?

Yeah, that one. Anyway, Haas filled in his final assistant captain crew by naming Steve Stricker as the third vice captain, joining Davis Love and Fred Couples. I guess he brought Stricker in as The Enforcer because, my sources tell me, he’s “a savage.”

That’s a joke, of course, because Haas and Price and the assistant captains on both teams are all members of the Nice Guy Teams.

The two interesting parts of the President Cup are, One, Price wants to reduce the number of matches to help make the beleaguered International team (1-9-1 all-time versus the U.S.) more competitive. He says the team’s weakness has been the bottom four players and that the U.S. squad has superior depth, and the extra matches expose that weakness. That’s debatable. I would argue that the International teams have underperformed somewhat, probably because they’re usually loaded with good ball-strikers who are average putters, and match play is all about putting.

Two, the Presidents Cup will be played in Korea and, Price noted, “It would be really sad if we don’t have a Korean player on the team.”

Sang Moon Bae is a contender except he hasn’t played well this summer, possibly because he’s had the whole saga of fulfilling his mandatory military service for South Korea. He has decided to go ahead and compete his 21 months of service and the country, Price said, will allow him to finish the FedEx Cup before he goes into the military—and if Bae made the Presidents Cup squad, Price hopes the government would allow him to play in the event. There’s also Danny Lee and former U.S. Amateur champ Ben An. None of them are compelling choices at the moment, but Price hopes one of them will get hot to vindicate a pick.

The Cup will be played Oct. 6-11 at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

Van Cynical, Do you see Rory McIlroy playing again in 2015?—Michael Cummings via Twitter

If I was forced to wager money on it, no. Once the last putt drops at the PGA Championship, the meaningful part of the season is over for Rory. I don’t know how bad, exactly, his ankle is but it doesn’t make sense to risk his future just to come back and play, what, the BMW Championship? The wildcard factor is, he likes the course at Deutsche Bank so if he did come back, it would be there. I don’t see him playing a PGA Tour event, though. Maybe he hits the European Tour but if he’s smart, he waits until he’s 100 percent—and then waits another month. I think that’s 2016.

What’s up, Van? Do the players actually enjoy laying tread at Firestone or do they only show for the world ranking points, the cash and the swag bag?—Kevin Montminy via Twitter

Good question, KeMo. Funny, I don’t recall any player saying they hate the South Course. A lot of said they liked the North Course better the one year it was used, but the South is a kind of plain, straight-ahead layout back and forth and up and down a slope. Lot of trees, lot of rough—you’ve got to hit it straight to score here. Some guys don’t enjoy that part but I haven’t heard serious criticism of the place, which is always in good shape. As far as spending a week in Akron, well, that’s a different story. That no-cut (effectively appearance money) thing plays pretty well. If this was just a regular Tour stop, it would still draw a good field.

Van the Man, Do you see anyone stopping the Jordanator from getting to World No. 1 this week?—PaulRWilkinson via Twitter

I don’t know which week it’s going to happen, WilksBooth, but it’s definitely going to happen while No. 1 Rory is on the sideline not earning any points. I like Jordan Spieth’s chances of moving to No. 1 this week, as you suggest. It’s just a matter of time at this point.

Sick Man, What’s your all-time favorite PGA Championship venue?—Michael Cummings via Twitter

That’s a trick question, right, Cummings Attractions? Well, I’m going to throw out some of the traditional major venues used by the U.S. Open that were usurped by the PGA (Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills and Baltusrol, to name a few). I assume you mean something more proprietary to the PGA. I’ll go with a combo platter of Blue Mound CC in Milwaukee (Gene Sarazen won it in 1933); Keller Golf Course (1954, 1932), a fun public course in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota; and Laurel Valley, a beautiful track in Arnold Palmer country and a cool club despite the members’ distinctive pink sport coats where Dave Marr won in 1965.

Van Cyclical, Is Firestone South still considered long, penal and boring by today’s Tour pros (and golf writers)?—Gary K. McCormick via Twitter

Every course is too long and penal for us puny golf writers. No course plays long for the pros, since a 340-yard drive, which once seemed Happy Gilmore-like, is now commonplace. If you look up Longest Drives under PGATour.com’s statistics, it lists the 1,000 longest drives this season. That list cuts off at 348 yards. So there have been a thousand drives of 348 yards or more this season; 878 of 350 or more; 416 drives of at least 360; 213 drives of 370 or more; and 97 drives beyond the 380 mark. What is this, a long-drive contest? Even factoring in the freakish drives at Hyundai, where they play down a mountain, that’s a lot of big shots. Anyway, no, The South course is no longer a Monster. At least, not unless the wind blows 30 mph.

Van Cynical, What is your all-time favorite buddies golf trip moment?—Brian Bailey via Twitter

Since it’s too embarrassing to admit I don’t have any buddies, I’ll go with the time at Bandon Dunes when Rick Reilly picked up the dinner check, an upset on the order of Appalachian State over Michigan. I’m kidding, although Reilly really did pick up a dinner check. I saw fellow magazine czar Jaime Diaz make a hole-in-one at Bandon, I don’t recall which course or which hole, but it was his second ace and it came 45 years after his first one. That was pretty cool and I enoyed being there to see it… and criticize the shot.

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