Monday Scramble: McIlroy's struggles continue

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Steven Bowditch won his second PGA Tour event, the Byron Nelson turned into a sloppy mess in the second round, Rory McIlroy missed a second consecutive cut, and I'm writing a second consecutive Monday Scramble:

There is reason to be concerned following McIlroy's 80-71 showcase at Royal County Down. Not necessarily for the U.S. Open, but for further down the road. Golf Digest's Jaime Diaz said the same thing much more eloquently and intelligently than can I, so I encourage you to click here and read it.

It's good to hear a powerful and well-respected voice in the game question McIlroy's willingness to grind. We'll say in the future, "McIlroy turned a 75 into a 71 today." But in the present, that 75 is an 80. And 71's should be 68's.

This is disconcerting from a world No. 1. Even more so when you consider McIlroy should go down as one of the top 10 players of all time. He may win the U.S. Open by eight shots in a few weeks, and if so, some will say 'Eat crow.' (People still say that?) But that would be missing the point of this Takeaway. Rory will win many, many times. He will win majors and win by large margins. But, eventually, at some point, he will miss consecutive cuts again. He will get loose with the driver early and never straighten the wheel. One missed 4-footer will turn into four missed 4-footers. That's just who is he for now - not necessarily forever.

Big deal. It happens to everyone. But McIlroy is special. His game is brilliant, of legendary proportions. He's good enough to win events by multiple shots without his best. He doesn't need to sustain that brilliance for long periods of time. He just needs to add in a consistency of averageness (by his standards). If he does that, forget a top-10 all-time player. We're talking a historical Big 3: Jack, Tiger and Rory.

1. Last week around these parts we exalted the PGA Tour for its bevy of fabulous finishes. Like during a no-hitter, perhaps we shouldn't have made mention, because the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship went and did this.

That's not to disparge champion Steven Bowditch. The 31-year-old Australian earned his victory with a final-round, 5-under 64 that included six birdies and several impressive par saves over his final 13 holes. Bowditch got married on the 18th hole at TPC Four Seasons and this is his second triumph in the Lone Star State (2014 Texas Open). He overcame the multiple weather delays and the akward setup. He's as worthy a winner as there's been on Tour this season.

I just wish I could stop staring at his eyebrows. He looks like Sam Eagle. Was he bitten by a werewolf? I. Just. Can't. Stop. Staring.



2. And, just to be safe, because one reader believed me to be serious last week when I said Chris Kirk's fourth PGA Tour win got him into the Hall of Fame conversation, I offer this:



Yes, it's low-brow humor (OK, puns are worse than sarcasm) but it's all I got.

3. Jordan Spieth, competing in his hometown event, finished T-30 at the Byron Nelson. The highlight of his week came in a 5-under 64 on Friday while grouped with friend Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. Spieth, born in Dallas and still an area resident, is the Nelson's saving grace. He's 21, a major champion, a fan favorite and never likely to abandon this tournament.

Tiger Woods stopped playing the Nelson in 2005. Mr. Nelson died in 2006. The event has struggled to stand out ever since. It's still not on par with upper-echelon Tour stops, like this week's Memorial Tournament, but Spieth's involvement - along with his primary sponsor, AT&T, serving as title sponsor of the Nelson - adds enough weight to keep the event from floating into obscurity.

4. McIlroy stepped out Sunday with his new girlfriend, PGA of American employee Erica Stoll. Twitterverse and the tabloids were giddy. We created a photo gallery. Honestly, I just want to know who's the sidler in the background?



As far as his play in concerned - McIlroy has missed three consecutive cuts at the Irish Open, which his foundation hosts - here is a suggestion: the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation and Contested in Jupiter, Florida.

5. Soren Kjeldsen won the Irish Open despite a final-round, 5-over 76 on "wind-swept and rain-batterd Royal County Down," as the Associated Press described. Kjeldsen's playoff victory, his fourth on the European Tour, got him into the British Open. The top three players inside the top 10 at the Irish, not otherwise exempt into the British, earned a spot at St. Andrews. That included Eddie Pepperall, who, along with Bernd Wiesberger, lost to Kjeldsen on the first extra hole Sunday, and Tyrell Hatten (T-4). Hatten edged out Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who also finished T-4, by virtue of his higher world ranking (142nd to 148th). Similar golden tickets will be available at the French and Scottish Opens, as well as the three PGA Tour events between the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

6. The Nelson nearly had a top-15 winner. World No. 10 Dustin Johnson and No. 12 Jimmy Walker were in contention on Sunday. Johnson chipped in twice and then made a quadruple bogey-8 at the par-4 sixth. Walker stumbled around the turn and wasn't able to catch up late. We'll have to wait to see if Walker can measure up to the Rickie Fowler post-victory-kiss standard.



 7. Speaking of Fowler, he was in contention at the Irish Open until an 8-8 (quad-triple) finish on Saturday. His 76-73 weekend put him in a tie for 30th place. He was even par through two rounds, a notable accomplishment as his playing competitors, McIlroy (9 over) and Martin Kaymer (6 over), both missed the cut, with neither making a birdie in their first rounds.

8. The Stanford Cardinal won its first NCAA Women's National Championship in golf, defeating the Baylor Bears in a compelling match-play final. You can nitpick the tournament all you want, but the new format (four days of stroke-play qualifying, followed by three rounds of knock-out match play) was a success. The semifinals and finals produced great theater, from the Lauren Whyte-Lisa Maguire Final-Four duel, to the Mariah Stackhouse-Haley Davis thriller to determine a champion. The men are competing now at Concession Golf Club, with Golf Channel airing the final round of stroke play and the entire match-play portion.

9. Switching to the professional ladies, Anna Nordqvist won for the third time in two years (fifth in her career) at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Morgan Pressel missed another chance to end a seven-year winless drought, shooting 2-over 73 to drop from overnight leader to T-3.

10. Meanwhile, Michelle Wie returned from a hip injury to compete at the ShopRite. For two rounds. She missed the cut, shooting 74-72 (4 over). Following her breakout campaign last year, Wie doesn't have a top-10 in 12 starts this season. Only two Americans have won this year: Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome.

How dare you? You cynical lot of people. Just because 12 players withdrew prior to the start of the Byron Nelson Championship, where the weather forecast resembled Picaso's Blue Period, you go all Chuckie Sullivan (warning: profanity in video):



Ian Poulter strained something in the gym. Jason Day was dizzy. Kevin Kisner, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Kokrak, Scott Gardiner, Chris Stroud, Alex Cejka, George McNeill, Neal Lancaster, Fredrik Jacobson and Will Zalatoris had stuff. Al Czervick broke his arm.



"There is no such thing as coincidence," said a lot of people a lot of times. "Maybe some reasons are legitimate, but not all," said the doubters.

How can we unite as a society if we can't believe the excuses and non-excuses our professional golfers give to us when they back out of tournaments? You say, these guys are spoiled and abhor inconvience. I say ... well, you may be right:

U.S. Open sectionals began this past week, with 36-hole qualifiers in Japan and England. Ten Stateside qualifiers will be contested on June 8. ... Phil Mickelson was spotted practicing at Chambers Bay. ... European Ryder Cup qualifying for the 2016 Matches begins in Russia, in Sepetember. It will still be more interesting than current Presidents Cup qualifying. ... Rory McIlroy's Northern Ireland home is for sale. It was on the market before this past week's performance. ... European Solheim Cup captain Carin Koch named Sophie Gustafson and Martina McBride Maria McBride (formerly Hjorth) her vice captains, along with previously announced Annika Sorenstam. ... Alabama's Emma Talley won the NCAA women's individual title. ... And, on the men's side, the NCAA doled out four slow-play penalties during on Sunday. Hey, Finchem, you paying attention?