It’s the last day of July, which means after 37 PGA Tour events, 32 different winners, 10 months, three poorly rated majors, two “top-5” declarations, one very notable back surgery and zero Tiger and Phil victories … well, we’ve finally arrived at the best month of the year for golf fans.
No offense, January. Those views on the Big Island are the envy of snow-shovelers everywhere, but let’s be honest here – football is still king.
No hard feelings, April. There’s no greater spectacle in our sport than the Masters, but after that there is the … uh … Zurich Classic?
No chance, June. The U.S. Open beats up everybody, players and viewers alike.
The point is, they’re just not August.
Think about it: There is a WGC event (this week’s Bridgestone Invitational); the fourth and final major of the year (next week’s PGA); the start of golf’s postseason (FedEx Cup); and, on a biennial basis, the race for the Ryder Cup (we’ll know nine of the 12 U.S. Ryder Cuppers on Aug. 10).
It’s a hectic eight-week stretch for players, but the jam-packed schedule is to the golf fan’s benefit. From now until Sept. 14 – when the FedEx Cup champion is crowned – there is a steady stream of important events, high-level golf and juicy storylines.
Even if Tiger Woods isn’t around for the conclusion, this is undoubtedly the best time of year.
Your mailbag questions:
@RyanLavnerGC who is your favourite to win this Week?— Petter (@PetterPskigolf) July 29, 2014
There are two obvious favorites, and it’s the head-to-head matchup that I debated when filling out my fantasy roster this week: Adam Scott vs. Rory McIlroy. Scott won at Firestone in 2011, and since his victory at Colonial he’s followed it up with high finishes at Memorial (T-4) and both summer Opens (T-9 and T-5, respectively). McIlroy is a no-brainer choice, as well. He’s riding high off his Open win, he’s engaged (on the course) and motivated, and he has three top-10s in his last four trips around the big ballpark in Akron. These two are the clear-cut favorites over others like Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler or Keegan Bradley.
Rory, mostly because it would seem that Phil’s best chances to win an Open are behind him. Two of the next three are at relative unknowns – Chambers Bay and Erin Hills – and the ’16 Open is an all-time brute in Oakmont, where he missed the cut in 2007. Phil will be 47 at the end of the Erin Hills Open. As for Rory, well, with his high, right-to-left ball flight it’s a surprise that he’s only been in contention once in six trips to Augusta. The magnitude of the moment might be too much next spring, but expect him to tick off that feat sometime in the next few years. He’s only 25, with his peak years still ahead of him.
Kaymer is the leader in the clubhouse, after his Players-U.S. Open double dip, but I have a feeling the next few weeks will provide a more definitive answer. Right now, though, my rankings would look like this: Kaymer, Rory, Bubba, Jimmy and P-Reed. The Open may have been McIlroy’s first victory of the season on this tour, but he’s given himself a couple of other chances to win and hasn’t finished outside the top 25 all season. Based on Rory’s recent history (see: late 2012), everyone is expecting Boy Wonder to parlay his major success into a few more big-time titles before the season ends in mid-September.
Well, Dubuisson is certainly the most intriguing, not least because of his aloof personality. Consistency might not be his forte, but he’s shown recently that his A-game is pretty tough to beat. Few had even heard of him when he won against a loaded field in Turkey. A few months later, he was the runner-up at the Match Play. A few months after that, he tied for ninth at the Open. In between those starts, he didn’t do much of anything. Playing in the States requires an adjustment, which helps explain why of the four players you mentioned, none has more than two top-10s in PGA Tour events this season. At No. 21 in the world, Dubuisson is the best player right now, but it wouldn’t surprise at all if Francesco Molinari enjoyed a solid campaign if he went full-time in the U.S. Strong ball-striker, and he possesses the professional-plodder mentality (a la Matt Kuchar) that tends to work on a week-in, week-out basis.
Been writing for a while now that getting to major No. 15, not No. 19, will be the toughest for Tiger. Nothing that has transpired in the past few weeks has changed that opinion, and when he does return to elite form – and he will, whether it’s this week, later this fall, next spring, or sometime next year – he’ll find a landscape more crowded than before. It’s never been harder to win on Tour, from the young and fearless players (Rickie, Spieth, P-Reed, etc.) who never were tormented by Woods’ dominance to those like Rory, Bubba and Kaymer who are capable of winning majors (in routs) when everything clicks. The immensely talented Spieth will get his, no doubt, but it might take a few more years, and certainly a few more opportunities. With eight top 5s since his breakthrough victory, Spieth, like Woods, understands that patience is required in this new world order.