Date: August 07, 2014
Author: Mike Clayton /

Tiger, Rory confidence heading opposite ways

ory McIlroy was blitzing the front nine at Firestone last Sunday, Tiger Woods was packing his car and looking for a doctor to try and get his ailing body ready for this weeks PGA Championship in Kentucky. Slashing an iron from the bank of a bunker on the second hole Woods hurt his back, ground through seven more holes and then called it a day.

McIlroy, in contrast began with four birdies in five holes, flew past the three shot overnight leader Sergio Garcia, shot 66 and took the number one ranking from Adam Scott.

This year has been a total write-off for Woods, his body failing and his driver bedeviled by the yips. Everyone knows about the putter yips but get them with the driver and it’s impossible to play with any serenity. They are manifested by the low, fast-diving shot to the left and the high, floating block to the right and which one you get depends on the timing (something no one has real control over when the club’s moving at 120 mph) and where the trouble happens to be. Ian Baker-Finch had them and you could be assured if there was trouble down the left if you gave him ten shots he would hit two straight, six right and two left. The equation directly flipped when the trouble was on the opposite side of the hole. Some think it a mental issue and it becomes one in the end it is always spawned by a technical problem.

McIlroy in stark contrast is so confident with the driver he stands on every tee, swings with absolute abandon and hammers it right down the middle of the fairway. Tiger Woods has probably never been envious of the talents of any of his contemporaries but he now must be covet the shots McIlroy is producing with his longest club. 

Scott has quietly played fantastic golf this year but winning only once is a meager return for the number of beautiful swings he has made and the number of perfect looking shots he has hit. Nor is it unreasonable to suggest one major championship is something less than anyone who saw him play as a teenager would have thought.

He now plays a Woods-like limited schedule to maximize his chances to playing his best golf four weeks of the year. Whilst he hasn’t repeated the magic of Augusta a tie for 14th in his defense, 9th place at Pinehurst and 5th at Hoylake suggests he needs only to find the little extra magic it takes to win.

Martin Kaymer found it at Pinehurst in what was an extraordinary performance and McIlroy had it at Hoylake. Like Woods though, McIlroy’s magic is just a little more magical than the rest.

One who is surprised to be even playing this week is Geoff Ogilvy. Talked into playing last week by others who clearly knew something he didn’t, Ogilvy turned a miserable year into something decent by winning in Nevada and earning one of the last places in the PGA. Presciently he had written a magazine column this month suggesting his play was not something to be too concerned about and it was only a matter of time before he played well again.

Statistically he had gone from being one of the better short putters on the tour to one of the poorest and if nothing else missing short putts is awfully annoying and annoyed golfers rarely play their best. His hitting too had been far from its best when he was back at the end of last year for the Australian Masters and the Australian Open. You can blame the putting all you like but to beat men playing as well as McIlroy and Scott you had better be great from tee to green. The two top ranked players in the game have few peers when it comes to the long game skills and if we are indeed in the post-Woods era it is Scott and McIlroy who can define the next decade of professional golf.