After Further Review: 2014 Open Championship


Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on a very healthy state of the game even without a very healthy - or high-performing - Tiger Woods, thanks in large part to Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

Now that his back's fixed, Tiger Woods can go to work getting his driver fixed, or his driver skills, at least. Rory McIlroy loves to hit driver. When he is on, McIlroy will hit it just about everywhere, with impunity. It's the giant advantage McIlroy has over Woods today. It's the advantage Adam Scott has over Woods. It's the advantage Bubba Watson has over Woods. It's the advantage just about every top-10 player has on Woods, who sometimes looks like a man yanking a bandage off a wound when pulling driver out of his golf bag. Woods can still be so good with his irons, with his short game, with his putter, he'll continue to win, but it's harder work against these major championship challengers if his game plans are designed to avoid hitting drivers. With his back fixed, with his strength and speed coming back, so may that driver, a tool that could go a long way to helping him beat these younger challengers who stand between him and Jack Nicklaus' record.  Randall Mell

It could take Tiger Woods weeks, months, maybe even a year to regain his top form. That’s OK. In the meantime, the sport will be just fine, with Rory McIlroy again in full flight, Adam Scott consistently excellent, and Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth on the cusp of breakthroughs. The first two majors of the year have been snoozers, drama-wise, but were tremendous displays of golf. The Open was a reminder of how McIlroy’s best is unmatched. The common denominator was that Woods, long the sport’s main needle-mover, didn’t play a factor, either because of injury or ineffectiveness. His return to form will simply be a bonus. – Ryan Lavner

Rory McIlroy has the ability to be a truly dominant player. The only question is whether he has the drive to dominate like the players he is being compared to. McIlroy’s victory on Sunday at the Open Championship made him just the third player to claim three legs of the career Grand Slam before his 26th birthday, joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in that elite club. But if he is to continue that impressive trend he will need to avoid the kind of slump that dominated his season in 2013, when he failed to win on the PGA Tour or contend in the majors. “I've really found my passion again for golf,” he said. Along with that passion he’s found his way back onto a historic path.  Rex Hoggard

Rickie Fowler is ready to win a major. Any major. Seems obvious because of his performance at the British Open, but I'm not so sure I'd have made such a declarative statement just four short days ago. He's the only player to finish top-five in each of the season's three majors so far but at both the Masters and the U.S. Open, Fowler played well on Saturday, then followed it with a poor Sunday round. This week Fowler showed tons of guts and fought his butt off until the last putt. He's only won one PGA Tour event, but he's shown that he has a game for all seasons and he's now firing on all cylinders on golf's biggest stages. Major glory will come soon.  Jay Coffin