Punch Shot: 2015 bigger for McIlroy or Scott?

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Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are set to duel Down Under in this week's Australian Open. McIlroy edged Scott a year ago for the title. The upcoming year looks to be a big one for both players, with McIlroy eyeing the career Grand Slam and Scott trying to win majors before the anchor ban takes effect. For whom is 2015 bigger? Our writers weigh in:

By RYAN LAVNER

Rory McIlroy.

We’ve seen this movie before – Boy Wonder captivating the golf world, winning majors and other top-tier tournaments, ascending to world No. 1. Remember 2012? That’s when McIlroy won the PGA Championship and four other worldwide tournaments to solidify his standing as the game’s next star.  

Then 2013 happened, and for a variety of reasons (equipment change, relationship rumors, management issues) he was knocked back down a few pegs. The competitive bell curve had come to define the early stages of his career.  

So now, after another banner year, after the best summer of his life, 2015 is shaping up to be a monster season for McIlroy. Still only 25, he needs to show that he’s capable of consistency – not just week-to-week, or month-to-month, but over the entirety of his year.  

Though his lawsuit figures to pose a significant distraction in the spring, everything else in his life seems to be in order. Whether that stability leads to continued success remains to be seen. 


By JASON SOBEL

Let's face it: This isn't a make-or-break year for either of these guys. Both are established world-class talents. Even if they falter in 2015, both have proven in the past that they can bounce back from disappointing campaigns.

With that in mind, this year is bigger for McIlroy, for the simple reason of what he could accomplish.

It all comes down to an April week in Georgia, where he could win a third straight major and become the sixth player ever to claim the career Grand Slam before his 26th birthday. If it happens, everything else he does for the year is gravy.

Scott will have a new caddie and one final year of being able to anchor his putter, so there's probably some sentiment that he'll have a sense of urgency this year. But the stakes are bigger for McIlroy, just because he's chasing history.


By REX HOGGARD

After a relatively injury-free 34 years, Adam Scott would appear to be reaching the prime of his impressive career, and yet 2015 will still looms as a pivotal season for the Australian.

Nearly 10 years younger, Rory McIlroy will feel more pressure in ’15 as he eyes the final leg of the career Grand Slam at Augusta National, but it will be Scott who will find himself on the proverbial clock.

It won’t be injury or indifference that sends Scott’s career into decline; it will be golf’s institutional shift away from anchored putting.

When the USGA and Royal & Ancient mandated last year’s ban on anchoring many considered Scott the player who would be most impacted.

A superior ballstriker who can overpower the game’s longest golf courses, Scott’s putting has always been suspect even with his broom-handle putter.

In 2013, when he won his maiden major and Australia’s first green jacket, Scott ranked 103rd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting. Last year Scott ranked 55th in putting, his best position in that category in a decade, but he only won once on Tour.

Perhaps Scott can find a viable alternative to anchoring to cure his putting woes, but he hasn’t yet.


By RANDALL MELL

The anchored putter challenge makes 2015 a bigger year for Adam Scott.

With the ban against anchoring a stroke against the body beginning at the start of 2016, the pressure will begin to escalate for Scott to figure out what he’s going to do. He has 2015 to make the most of his last year anchoring and to figure out whether he’s going to go to a standard putter or modify his stroke with the long putter.

McIlroy doesn't have that to worry about.

Scott’s on record believing he won’t have an issue, but until he starts seeing putts go in without anchoring, it’s an issue. That's because anchoring appears to have made a huge difference for him in majors. Though his putting stats were actually good for most of his career with a standard putter, there’s no denying his performance in majors took off with the anchored putter. Scott did not have a top 10 in a major in the four years before he made the switch to a long putter. In the 16 majors since switching, he has nine top 10s, including his Masters’ victory in ’13. He has been T-5 or better in five of his last 10.

At some point this year, Scott has to square away a future putting plan.