Tour Confidential: What Will We See From Rory This Summer?

May 18, 2015

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 coasted to an easy win at Quail Hollow and pulled away from the field with a course-record 61 on Saturday. We’ve seen what can happen when Rory gets on one of these runs. What are your predictions for Rory’s summer at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and British Open at St. Andrews?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I wouldn’t want to go beyond the U.S. Open. Luck of the draw can mean everything in the British Open. But at the U.S. Open, I don’t see how he won’t be right there. Win or not, who can say, but confidence like he has, and swinging and putting the way he is, doesn’t just disappear in a matter of weeks.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): Rory’s been gaining steam since the weekend at Augusta, and it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see him win again at Quail Hollow. The ease that he won WAS a surprise, and also a reminder that, with two eight-shot victories in majors, he has another gear that can’t be matched. Hard not to like his chances of adding at least one more major this summer.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF Magazine: (@JoshSens): Rory could easily slip into that other gear and leave the field in the dust. But he could just as easily not, and it would be much more interesting if he doesn’t. I think it’s more likely that guys like Spieth and Day give him a good run for him money. And let’s also throw Lefty into the mix. I know, really going out on a limb here.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): The guy just shot 61 and won going away. Kinda hard to be objective this minute. I say he wins both Opens by a touchdown. Unless it’s windy at either place, in which case all bets are off.

2. Adam Scott said he wasn’t planning his schedule around the Olympics and doesn’t think golf belongs in the event. Do you agree with Scott’s approach of only gearing up for the four majors of 2016 and ignoring the Olympics? And how can the Olympic format be tweaked to have the attention of the world’s best players? 

VAN SICKLE: Guys who can’t putt are always mad at the world but even so, I agree with Scott about the exhibition. There are only 60 players and half of them will probably rank outside the top 100 in the world. This is a promotional event, not a serious golf competition. If there were 25 three- or four-person teams and Scott could represent Australia, I think he’d be more interested. But the field is a joke—without qualifying heats, it’s like letting the Jamaican bobsled team into the final run.

BAMBERGER: Golf missed a great chance here, and the Olympics did, too. Golf would have been the perfect sport to have an amateur team competition. It will likely be fine, but professional golf doesn’t need the Olympics and the Olympics don’t need professional golf. The joy of the Olympics is being introduced to athletes you would otherwise never have heard.

RITTER: Scott’s remarks reveal more about Adam than the Olympics. He’s a frustrated player in the midst of a miserable season, and if he continues on this path he won’t have to worry about the Games because he won’t qualify. Of course the Olympic format could be better, but once we get there I expect those who play in Rio to be all-in on winning gold. 

SENS: I share his lack of enthusiasm for golf in the Olympics, at least where it concerns the game’s top pros. Given all the other events around to lure them, I don’t think it’s realistic to attract the impassioned attention of the world’s best players. Better to focus on attracting players who care the most.



3. At the midway point on Saturday, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy were tied for the lead, but Mickelson limped home with a 39 on the back nine and finished nine back of McIlroy entering the final round. What can you make of this version of Mickelson we’ve seen so far in 2015? 

SENS: It’s just 40-something Phil being 40-something Phil. Torrid streaks interspersed with indifferent-seeming play. And not so surprising for a guy on a limited schedule who was already prone to extremes in his prime. Unlike Homer Simpson, Mickelson is drawn to the exhilarating highs and the devastating lows—less so the creamy middles. It’s a big part of what makes watching him so interesting.

BAMBERGER: It’s kind of like the last 25 years, except now the pattern is not hot week/cold week, it’s hot day, cold day. I have no worries about Phil. I think he’ll be a serious competitor for years to come, in select spots.

VAN SICKLE: Phil looks like the same old Phil. Brilliant at times, lots of birdies and incredible and I mean incredible short-game shots, plus a handful of awful shots. Like his closing triple bogey Saturday that took him out of the tournament. Phil has never been consistent. At least he’s making birdies this year, unlike 2014.

RITTER: Phil 2015 seems a little creaky and sluggish, but he’s also tied for second in back-to-back majors. Chambers Bay feels like it could be a Mickelson kind of venue, and I expect him to once again lift himself into the mix at a U.S. Open.

4. In case you missed it, Jeff Maggert won the Regions Tradition over Kevin Sutherland in a playoff in the Champions Tour’s first major. Does the Champions Tour have too many majors or not enough competitive legends to peak interest? 

VAN SICKLE: The senior circuit’s last real superstar was Tom Watson, who played a limited schedule. Before him, even Nicklaus played only sparingly. Since Hale Irwin, the Tour has been without a real superstar. The guy who could be filling that gap now is Greg Norman, but shoulder issues and a lack of wins when he did try senior golf caused him to lose interest. The next superstar on the horizon is Phil Mickelson and who’s to say he’s going to feel compelled to play much?

BAMBERGER: It’s been said before: there are three senior majors. The British and U.S. Opens and the PGA Championship.

SENS: In the absence of fierce rivalries and guys just scrambling to earn their keep, the living seems too easy on the Champions Tour to qualify very often as much more than entertaining exhibition golf.

RITTER: If only there was a 49-year-old out there who could come in next year and add a spark to the senior game. What’s that? There IS such a player? And he’s the subject of the next question? Eureka!


5. John Daly is going to be featured in an upcoming ESPN 30-for-30. Is he worthy of being the first golfer profiled by the documentary series? Who would you like to see featured next?

VAN SICKLE:  You can’t say Daly’s life hasn’t been an adventure. Getting at his real story is another problem altogether. If golf has a 30/30 candidate, it’s probably Anthony Kim, who can collect $10 million in insurance as long as he doesn’t hit another shot in a pro tournament. I’d watch that piece.

BAMBERGER: For sure. But the golf doc I would really want to see is the life and times of Calvin Peete.

RITTER: Daly’s a fascinating character, and throughout his ups and downs he has just owned who he is. You need someone who’s open and willing to go deep for that medium, and I expect the doc will be great. Next choice: Feherty.

SENS: Absolutely. Better a life lived as a country song than a life lived in a country club. Charlie Sifford’s story would make good 30-30 fodder. Or Calvin Peete’s. Or Larry Nelson’s. Or Jack Newton’s. Or any of a number of other guys whose path to the Tour and beyond wasn’t paved only with privilege and perks.

6. In a rare television appearance, Pacific Dunes (No. 12 course in GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S.) was featured on Fox Sports for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. What course would make you tune in no matter what tournament it was? 

VAN SICKLE: Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Waupaca Country Club and Pine Valley, not necessarily in that order.

BAMBERGER: Oh, more courses than there is space: Fishers Island, Cypress Point, Nat’l Golf Links; Pine Valley, Augusta National; Dornoch, Ballybunion; the West Palm Beach Municipal Golf Course. 

RITTER: Augusta’s an obvious answer, but I’d feel the same about Cypress Point or Pine Valley, two ultra-private spots most golfers never see in person or on TV.

SENS: Could be an exclusive course like, say, Muirfield, or a layout as accessible as Harding Park. Watching top golfers compete is always more compelling when I’ve either played the course or know it well enough that I can relate (or not) to the shots they’re hitting.

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