PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – I know that it’s Players Championship week, and because the tournament ostensibly is golf’s fifth major, it should be held in high esteem. But two incidents occurred last week in Charlotte, N.C., that caught my eye, so my thoughts on the Players will have to wait for another day.
First, I love Rory McIlroy. He shoots from the hip – not in a bad way but more of an adolescent or playful manner. He never tries to hurt anyone, and he is honest to the core.
“The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I'm comfortable saying that,” McIlroy said last week before the Wells Fargo Championship. “I don't care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship.”
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Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods coexist in alternative golf universes.
It’s understandable, given McIlroy’s perspective.
McIlroy, 29, of Northern Ireland, has endured a couple of traumatic defeats at Augusta National, which ironically has elevated the venue and event in his eyes. The Masters is the one event that McIlroy must win to complete the career Grand Slam.
The best part is that it was an honest appraisal by McIlroy.
It was disappointing that he would try to walk back the comments the next day, when American and European media questioned him. Such is the nature of the modern world. The comments are parsed repeatedly, until we lose sight of what the speaker truly was saying.
The first two players to be interviewed the next day in the media center, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, were asked about McIlroy’s comments. Each agreed that the Masters also is at the top of his list, although both are former champions at Augusta National.
Does that make McIlroy right? No, but it does lend support and maybe even credence to his position.
Three days later, Tiger Woods, who barely made the cut at Quail Hollow Club, shot 3-under 68 on Saturday and said, “I was so close to shooting about 7 under on that back nine.”
Anyone who plays golf, not just at the professional level, entertains such thoughts after almost every round.
The reason for a 19th hole is to sit and talk about the putt that should’ve dropped or the shot that narrowly missed being perfect and instead found the greenside bunker.
Golf is one of the greatest “what if” games. For Woods to make those comments made me wonder what it says about where his game – or, more specifically, his head – is just seven official starts into his return from back surgery last year.
“You always feel like you left a couple shots out there,” Mickelson said when asked how often he thinks he could have shot a better score than the one for which he signed. “You know, and you don't count the 50-foot putts that you made as being a bonus. You kind of think that, Yeah, that should have happened. Very rarely do you not think you couldn't have saved a shot here or there.”
Woods said he played well tee to green, but he struggled with the speed of the greens and failed to make many putts.
In looking at his week of 71-73-68-74 and a tie for 55th, he had a lot more problems than just the flat stick, considering that Jason Day won at 12 under and Woods finished at 2 over.
And yet, Woods landed a premier pairing this week at the Players with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, proving that this week is all about entertainment.
Yes, Woods is a ratings bonanza, but the novelty of the comeback has worn very thin. At some point, Woods, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2013 and has not claimed a major title since 2008, will have to show something better than he has produced recently inside the ropes.
Until then, I’d rather read about Day, Spieth, McIlroy or almost anyone else – players who actually have produced and won major championships during the past decade.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli