That is incisive Alan and I agree with all of it. The difference between 63-hole and 72-hole golf is the difference between being No. 50 and being a consistent winner and contender of which there’s maybe a half dozen tops.
Tiger Woods. Plenty will focus on a disappointing finish at Firestone but even this week I saw plenty to be encouraged by. A couple of days of intense practice and we’ll see a dialed-in Tiger in Missouri.
McIlroy takes rip from the deep rough and comes up short — his ball is in one of the many deep bunkers at Bellerive. Woods from 217 yards from the deep rough on this par 4 and tree-trouble in front of him…and he takes a half-wedge and punches it back to the fairway. Nothing else he could do there.
On the 241-yard par-3 16th McIlroy and Thomas find the green but not close to the hole. Woods overcooks and iron long and left and it settles next to the grandstand. Thomas kicks in his third birdie of the opening nine and he’s tied for the lead and looking totally in control. McIlroy pars to stay -1.
Woods and Thomas are safely on this par 4 but outside 30 feet. Rory from 115 yards with a little tree trouble…and it’s a flyer that stays on the green maybe 30 feet above the hole. No great birdie looks from the group here.
Sleeper: Muscular Kiwi Ryan Fox is one of the biggest hitters on any tour and when he keeps it in the park he can contend anywhere. Quietly he’s climbed to ninth on the Race to Dubai points list and 80th in the OWGR thanks to a playoff loss at the Irish Open and a T6 at the Scottish Open.
No. 18 is a dogleg left. No birdies thus far today. Tiger and JT find the fairway while Rory loses his drive in the rough on the right. Tiger drains a testy little five-footer for par and JT and Rory clean up too. On to the 18th.
There’s also the ever-nagging question of how to grow the game. With so much money floating around the upper echelons of the pro game I’ve heard grumblings about the PGA seeming increasingly out of touch for the everyday member to say nothing of the everyday golfer. I think there’s some truth to that.
All things considered Rory hits a very well-executed flop to set up a 18-20 footer for par. So Rory is actually WAY over the green into the gallery. He’s taking a free drop now. Will be a tough shot to a short-sided pin.
From the front bunker Rory hits a zipper that scares the flag but backs up to about 15 feet. He’ll have that for a par saver. Woods knocks his 3rd onto the front of the green but he’s going to have about 30-40 feet to save a par. Meanwhile up ahead Mickelson managed to save a par. No. 10 looks like it has some teeth: the hole has produced 14 bogeys and 10 pars so far.
Rory. The driving game he showed in Akron for one thing. Also how long can you keep a good man down? Sleeper: Bryson. He’s earned his place in the darkhorse category because of the talk around him. Example: he’s choking his way off the Ryder Cup team (some people will say) he had a fit of driving-range craziness (some will say) at the Open and he was classless and looked lost (some will say) in the final day in Germany.
…and he take a lash with the driver but his shot also drifts right into the deep rough. The feature group is underway at Bellerive. Thomas is up first hitting driver…and he splits the fairway. Rory is next: another driver and it leaks into the right rough. And now Woods…