Woods with a wedge in hand…and he stuffs it to about a foot! Kick-in birdie approaching. JT will have about 5 feet Rory 12. On 12 all 3 guys hit driver and all find the short grass. Woods needed a fairway there.
You can set my Mc-o-Meter to “bummed out.” Rory keeps teasing us with glimpses of winning form only to snatch them away; remember his Sunday surge at Carnoustie? That was a blast. But the letdowns have been many and varied of late for Rory. I still expect him to play well at Bellerive but my guard is distinctly up.
Phil hacks out and his shot settles in the right rough 70 yards short. Early trouble. Meanwhile a massive crowd on No. 10 greets Tiger Rory and JT. Teeing off on No. 10 Mickelson blows his shot into the rough well left of the fairway on the par 4. And so it begins.
I’m giving the nod to Scotland but let’s say thisyou can’t go wrong either way. For those of you have never been to either but have been to Bandon Dunes I would say Bandon is more Scottish than Irish until you get to the bar.
With the U.S. Open headed back to a series of heavy-hitter classics maybe the PGA could seize the chance to travel to the country’s best innovative newer tracks. Or just ship the fourth major to Australia like they do in tennis.
So as we make the turn to No. 1 Tiger is at +2 JT remains tied for the lead at -3 and Rory is at even par. All right! Tiger drains his birdie to get back to +2 through his first nine. JT misses his birdie and settles for par and Rory takes a bogey.
Not the favorite. I’ll go with Dustin Johnson for that distinction. I’ll be looking for his “control” again this week. He had it at Carnoustie not making a double bogey until the back nine Sunday. If he can avoid double bogeys for another long stretch I’ll start believing he can contend at the PGA.
I’ll never give up on McIlroy. I think the PGA is likely harder for him to get up for than say the Masters but I expect that fact will serve him well in St. Louis.
Sleeper: Kyle Stanley. I had Stanley locked in as a sleeper last week; his runner-up finish at Firestone makes him slightly less sleepy but I like the way his ballstriking sets up for Bellerive. Plus there’s the added potential bonus of Stanley completing the Former Nike Staffer Without a Club Deal Grand Slam.
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.
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.
The level of play across professional golf is higher now than ever; from a very literal perspective these players are likely the best the European side has ever seen. But in terms of team dominance? Nah. The U.S. squad is loaded and deserves to be the favorite as long as it can figure out a couple of the trickier team pairings.