Tour Confidential: Is Rory McIlroy the once and future World No. 1? Plus, Monty’s major and the merits of a U.S. Open age limit

May 27, 2014

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Rory McIlroy ends his engagement, then comes from seven back to win the BMW PGA at Wentworth in England. Are we now looking at the once and future No. 1 in the world?

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): What a remarkable week. Maybe a huge sigh of relief, maybe his golf was the perfect distraction, but this was vintage Rory. A swing so rhythmic, yet so powerful, you want to cry. He was awesome with the driver. He missed a couple of short putts and, strangely, hit some poor irons when it mattered, but just killed it in every other way. Adam Scott was awfully impressive in his own right this week, but consider me sold on Rory.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Whether he becomes, as the Brits like to say, "world number one" again or not is not relevant. What is, of course, is what a cleared mind will allow a golfer to do. Rory's future will likely be like his past, brilliant at times and ordinary at others. He'll contend often and win some percentage of those times, in tournaments major and not-so-major.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Amazing how life spills into golf. Rory must have been having doubts for some time and it's hard to imagine it wasn't affecting his mindset on the course. But No. 1? I don't think so. Rory has had issues other than a distracting relationship.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): It's still a ways to No. 1 for Rory, but he's got as good a chance as anyone. We thought his win in Australia last winter was the win that brought him all the way back and that didn't happen. He's going to have to fight over it with Adam Scott, Justin Rose and, maybe next year, Tiger Woods. It's too early to hand anything to Rory, but it's good to see him win again.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): He was the once and future No. 1 no matter what happened with Caroline. Talent wins out. Have to admit, I'm surprised he won this week given that the breakup is so fresh and he was obviously shaken. Now you have wonder if Caroline is the one who feels even worse. Hope she wins her next event, too.

2. The current No. 1 Adam Scott won in a playoff over Jason Dufner at Colonial — and made a clutch 15-footer to stay alive on the second playoff hole. There was some grumbling when Scott ascended to the top spot despite not playing last week. How much does this win validate Scott's No. 1 ranking?

VAN SICKLE: That was a terrific win for Scott on a golf course that you can't overpower. He got off to a bad start, overcame a few foul-ups and then was Mr. Clutch in the playoff with Dufner. You get to No. 1, and then you rally to win your first time out? Oh, yeah, that validates the ranking big-time.

BAMBERGER: I am on strike from the rankings. I do regard Scott as the best player in the game now, but not by any significant margin.

RITTER: Majors are the ultimate validation, but for a first event as No.1, you can't ask for anything more.

SENS: Scott wasn’t topping the best field in the world. Rory wasn't in the event. Or Tiger. Or current No. 3 Henrik Stenson. So I don't see this win as the ultimate stamp of approval. That will come when he loses that broomstick and still wins a major.

PASSOV: This Colonial win was big-time validation for Adam Scott's No. 1 ranking. He needed to close — or win — at some point soon, to make up for Bay Hill and the Masters. He won on a shotmaker’s course, at a historic venue, where your name on the trophy means something, and he beat a fellow 2013 major winner in a playoff. Impressive stuff. That said, this whole week-to-week, who's No. 1 thing is just silly. OK, feather in the cap to say you were (once) No. 1 in the world, but golf supremacy is about majors, period.

3. Jessica Korda shot 65 on Sunday to steam past Michelle Wie, Charley Hull and a host of others, while Colin Montgomerie held off Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer at the Senior PGA Championship for his first-ever win on U.S. soil. How did you manage your golf viewing on Sunday and which event did you wind up watching most?

VAN SICKLE: Monty played one of the finest rounds I've ever seen him play and Tom Watson made a sizzling run at him. The Senior PGA was riveting stuff and I watched most of that. I caught the playoff of the PGA Tour. Didn't see any of the women.

RITTER: Just a great day for a golf fan to commandeer the remote control. Korda is a nice story, and the LPGA is having a banner year, but I was all-in on Tom Watson's run at the Senior PGA. Had a chance to chat with TW earlier this year, and at that time he seemed down on the state of his game and wholly focused on the Ryder Cup. This week was unexpected and fun to watch.

PASSOV: I wouldn't switch from major winners dueling at Colonial to watch Jessica Korda — yet — but serious golf claps for a sensational performance today. I did go back and forth to see if Monty could hold off Tom Watson and win for the first time on U.S. soil, my task made especially easy by Colonial's weird finish, with only David Toms among the final five or so groups having a chance. Now, this isn't disparaging the ladies. I watch a bunch of LPGA coverage, and the more these talented young players develop rivalries where they bring out the best in each other, like today, the more I'll watch.

SENS: Playing golf takes precedence over watching it live, so I hit the pitch-n-putt with my kids and TiVo'd everything else, giving it all equal time

BAMBERGER: I was on the links myself, but if my cart would have had a TV in addition to its wet bar, and if it somehow did not have split-screen technology, I would have the gentlemen of a certain age. Monty in contention is a beautiful thing.

4. At age 11, Lucy Li qualified for next month's U.S. Women's Open. Should the Open have an age limit? If Li was your daughter, would you let her play?

BAMBERGER: I would. She qualified through open qualifying. It's a one-time thing. She's not there for the money. Her parents will be around. She's not missing school to be there. Yes, for sure: like the ad says with that comical OTM accent: "Go play!"

PASSOV: This just seems insane to me. Yes, the U.S. Women's Open should have an age limit. No 11-year-old should have to endure the kind of pressure that major championship golf commands. Yet, the bigger head-scratcher to me is: How can an 11-year-old girl (or boy) outplay more mature (physically and otherwise) competitors? It's not just golf, though. I'm still completely perplexed as to how Olympic gymnastics and ice skating are as popular as they are, when we're talking about little girls training practically night and day for their entire childhoods so that they can represent their country at age 16.

VAN SICKLE: Age limits for sports participation are discriminatory. I'm still surprised Maurice Clarett lost his lawsuit against the NFL. He must've gotten out-lawyered. In golf, all that matters is your score. If you can shoot the score, you can play. It doesn't matter if you're 11 or 71, you're in. It's the ultimate meritocracy.

SENS: Absolutely, but only so that I could live vicariously through her success or failure and them punish or reward her depending on performance. Seriously, though, if she had the talent and seemed to genuinely want to do it, of course.

RITTER: If you earn your spot you deserve to play, regardless of age. If Li was my daughter I would now be finalizing a seven-figure deal with Oprah and her OWN Network to do a six-part miniseries based on my daughter's amazing life. But I'm not a parent, so what the heck do I know?

5. The Colonial is the PGA Tour's annual homage to Ben Hogan. Where does Hogan rate on your all-time list of greatest golfers?

VAN SICKLE: Hogan was before my time and for people 20 years younger than I, Nicklaus and Palmer were before their times. Hogan's legend is that of perhaps the greatest shotmaker in the steel-shaft/persimmon era and the physical hardship he overcame was remarkable. The game has changed too much, I don't think you can compare him to today's one-dimensional power-hitters. Nicklaus and Tiger are at the top of pro golf's all-time hill. Hogan, Nelson and Snead would have to be right there at the next step.

PASSOV: Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are 1 and 1a. Hogan comes next. Folks forget that he only entered a single British Open (and won it), missed four U.S. Opens during his prime due to WWII and skipped the PGA from 1949 through 1959, after winning it twice in the previous three years. With his unparalleled ball-striking and demeanor, he might have won another five majors easy — maybe more.

SENS: Then vs. Now sports arguments are great because they can never be settled. Ali vs. Marciano. Ruth vs. Cabrera. I tend to lean toward the non-romantic modern camp. I think Hogan would be a top-20 golfer today. Maybe. A giant of his era, but that was the era of golf as a game played by a small handful of almost exclusively white men. Different times. Golf is global now. Competition is much stiffer. The romanticists will call me a moron, and I will say that they are the closed-minded celebrants of a white establishment myth, and neither side will ever be able to prove the other wrong (admit it, though, I'm right).

BAMBERGER: Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan.

6. Jimmy Walker's tee shot on 17 hit a bird in the second round of the Colonial. What's the worst luck you've ever had on the course?

VAN SICKLE: I once three-putted the seventh green at Waupaca (Wis.) CC, walked up a hill to the eighth tee, fired my ball down at the ground in anger … and watched it take two bounces and disappear down a gopher or chipmunk hole, never to be seen again. It would've been hilarious if I wasn't steaming mad at the time. Three decades later, yeah, it's pretty funny.

PASSOV: In the summer of 1980, I tugged a drive at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe, Arizona and my ball drifted just off the property into the oryx exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo. I was willing to retrieve the ball, but as I approached the course boundary, a huge rattlesnake began to slither in my direction. At 17 years old, that new ball was worth something to me, as was my match against my best friend Brad, but fate had a different plan.

RITTER: In a 1995 high school grudge match, my opening tee shot bounded along the edge of the rough and plummeted down a gopher hole. I never recovered and got trounced. Needless to say, college golf was not an option.

BAMBERGER: Shot hits tree and returns to me, most sensitively.

SENS: I once made a hole-in-one with only my wife as witness. She couldn't have cared less. Talk about anticlimactic. Oh, and I once got hit on the fly by an errant drive. I think I still have a Pinnacle imprint on my lower back, like a tramp stamp.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.