News & Opinion

McIlroy, Masters an odd match

You’re probably thinking this is it, the year Rory McIlroy wins the Masters, the year he buries that nightmarish final round in 2011, the year he completes the Grand Slam.

And maybe it is. As they say in Hunger Games, "may the odds be ever in your favor." But honestly speaking, they’re not. 

Augusta National has always seemed like a course for the Irish horse. When he’s on, McIlroy drives the ball a country mile and straight as a sidewalk. When he’s on, no one is more dynamic. In this, the self-proclaimed “second phase” of his career, he has been on consistently.

In six 2019 starts, he has finished no worse than sixth. He ranks first on the PGA Tour in shots gained off the tee, shots gained tee to green, shot gained period. He is fourth in scoring average (69.95) and first in official money, with over $4.5 million.

In his most recent gig at the Players Championship, i.e. the “fifth major,” McIlroy finished first, doing so in a manner that suggests he will do so again — often. He hit big shots on Sunday afternoon, came from behind in the waning moments and broke a string of winless final-group appearances that had reached nine. 

Why, the man from County Down even won on St. Patrick’s Day, faith and begorragh! McIlroy now has 15 PGA Tour titles and four majors before his 30th birthday, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in that category. 

In that context, Masters week is two Sundays away. The “players to watch” lists already are out, the betting lines already are set. Based on his win last week — perhaps boosted by his gold-bottom shoes — McIlroy is the favorite, leapfrogging the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Woods and Justin Thomas.

All well and good, but here’s a couple of things to consider. The Masters Tournament, which began in 1934, and the Players Championship (1974) have been conducted in the same calendar year 45 previous times. Only once have they been won by the same player in the same year — Woods in 2001. What’s more, no one from Ireland ever has won the Masters.

Just sayin ... 

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While Rory McIlroy is a favorite to win his first Masters — and complete the career Grand Slam — the odds may be against him. [Photo: Golffile]

While Rory McIlroy is a favorite to win his first Masters — and complete the career Grand Slam — the odds may be against him. [Photo: Golffile]

TAP-INS 
 Shep Rose, a cast member of the Bravo television series Southern Charm, was booted from the Dye Pavilion VIP tent at last week's Players Championship. A TMZ report says Rose was being belligerent with people and making a spectacle of himself. An event employee asked him to leave, but Shemp, er, I mean, Shep, refused. St. John’s County sheriff’s deputies arrived to escort Rose to the door. They were, no doubt, charmed.

 Isn’t “golf ball sized hail” yet another reason to tone down the ball.
 Asked why he is chewing gum during rounds, Phil Mickelson told New York Times scribe Karen Crouse, “The chewing aspect stimulates the frontal cortex.” 

We’re gonna need a ruling on that.

 Jim “Bob Beamon” Furyk jumped 110 spots in the Official Would Golf Rankings after his runner-up finish at the Players Championship. Furyk was No. 167 heading into last week, No. 57 coming out.   

 Brooks Koepka, buffed winner of two majors last year, revealed he has lost 22 pounds and seems to have lost some distance. He must be on the Kryptonite Diet.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING
On this day in 1951, in Fort Worth, Tex., Ben and his wife Valerie attended the world premiere of “Follow The Sun,” a film about his life and career. Glenn Ford played Hogan, Ann Baxter played Mrs. Hogan and cameo appearances were made by Jimmy Demaret, Cary Middlecoff, Sam Snead and sportswriter Grantland Rice.

The “Hollywood Reporter” said Ford’s portrayal was “very much the Hogan we know from the links — a stoic more interested in playing a good game than being a good fellow. Yet, thanks to Ford’s persuasive playing you like Hogan and root for him.”

Ford was paid $12,500 for his work in the film, which was more than Hogan ever won in a golf tournament. Meanwhile, Hogan who had script approval and served as a technical advisor, "drove everybody nearly mad,” according to Demaret. “The Hawk” spent a month giving daily lessons to Ford in hopes of teaching him to swing like a pro. You know what they say, you can lead an actor to golf clubs, but you can’t make him ...

Apparently, Hogan was so picky about Ford portraying his swing that he stood behind the camera throughout filming and constantly asked for retakes. Director Sidney Lanfield finally had a mask made to look like Ford so Hogan could just stand in for golf shots. When it was all said and done, Lanfield said that he was never so happy to finish a film because Hogan was more difficult to work with than any Hollywood actor.

WHEN I'M 64
Send him a postcard, drop him a line ... After a week off, Lee Westwood only dropped two places in the OWGR, going from 62 to 64. That means Lucky Lee has the last spot in the 64-man field for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. Westwood will be making his first start in a WGC event since August 2017.

QUOTEWORTHY
“This is nonsense. Intent is not what we need in the game. If I’m caught speeding, I’m not going to plead intent to the cop who pulls me over that I didn’t mean to do it. We seem to have this disease right now, where every pro who breaks the rule, thinks the rules needs to be changed. … Suck it up, read the rulebook and just live by the rules.” 
— Golfweek columnist Eamon Lynch


Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine. 

Email: dan13153@gmail.com
Twitter: @WWDOD