CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winning this year’s U.S. Open will likely take an Olympic effort, both before and during the championship; while at least one player challenges golf’s efforts to become an Olympic sport again.
Rory’s “Dear Jack” moment. It’s tough to impress Jack Nicklaus either on or off the golf course, but Rory McIlroy has become adept on both fronts.
McIlroy, who is in the middle of a five-event stretch this week at the Wells Fargo Championship (where he is just three shots off the lead after 36 holes), had to alter his schedule this year to make room for the Irish Open, which he will be hosting in two weeks. As a result he chose to skip the Memorial for the first time since joining the Tour in 2010
In signature Rory style, the world No. 1 penned a letter to Memorial host Nicklaus explaining why he was skipping the Ohio stop. The two recently crossed paths in south Florida at The Bear’s Club.
“The first thing he said to me was that he’d received my letter and I said to him I wanted to write rather than phone or just advise the Tour,” McIlroy said. “He seemed pretty taken back to get my letter and that made me feel good.”
Consider it reason No. 658 to marvel at how well the 26-year-old wears fame.
Tweet of the week
@IanJamesPoulter (Ian Poulter): “Totally overrated finish from [Rickie Fowler]. Nice playing mate. Impressive.”
Poulter was referring to Fowler’s victory at The Players on Sunday after the two were voted the game’s most overrated players in a recent Golf.com player poll.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Olympic observations. Other top players likely have similar opinions, but give Adam Scott credit for having the conviction to publicly state the obvious.
While golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 has the potential to expand interest in the game in largely untapped markets, at the highest levels a gold medal is always going to rank well behind a major championship in the sphere of influence.
“Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I’ve fulfilled my career,” Scott told Reuters this week. “It’s nothing I’ve ever aspired to do and I don’t think I ever will. It’s all about the four majors and I think that’s the way it should stay for golf.”
Put another way, a gold medal would be nice but Scott is not trading it for another green jacket.
Mechanic-al problems. Miguel Angel Jimenez took to the microphone this week at the Spanish Open to address his run-in with Keegan Bradley at last month’s WGC-Match Play.
Bradley and Jimenez had a heated confrontation over a drop on Day 3 at Harding Park that spilled into the locker room after the Spaniard had won the match.
“He tell me in my face, ‘You never tell my caddie to shut up.’ Of course, I don't have to tell that, you have to tell that," Jimenez said. “I think that we need to have respect to everyone. If I go there and demand that information, just give me the information. Simple. If you don't want to give me it, then let the referee give me it. My thing is we need to be honest with each other, and be professional as we are. It's not about a rule anymore. It's about the attitude.”
What “The Mechanic” seemed to gloss over in his answer is that he did tell Bradley’s caddie, Steve “Pepsi” Hale, to shut up. Everyone involved in the incident likely could have handled the situation better, including Jimenez.
Lemonade from lemons. Give Wells Fargo Championship executive director Kym Hougham credit for making the most of the tournament’s spot on this year’s schedule, but it wasn’t easy.
A late commitment from McIlroy, as well as Phil Mickelson’s presence, helped boost a field that took a hit when the Tour repositioned, at least temporarily, the Charlotte-area stop on the schedule a week after The Players and just before the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Next year things should be easier for Hougham and Co. when the event moves back to the week just prior to The Players, but given the domino effect on next year’s schedule because of the Olympics and the move of the WGC-Match Play to just before the Masters it will likely continue to be a “bear market” for the likes of Hougham in the foreseeable future.
Open discussion. With already busy schedules and extended travel being the ultimate arbiter, it was no surprise that USGA executive director Mike Davis caused a few double takes last month when he was asked about Chambers Bay, the puzzle that is this year’s U.S. Open venue.
“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done,” Davis said of Chambers Bay. “Will not win the U.S. Open.”
Yet while some players have balked at the idea that this Open will require an elevated level of due diligence, there does seem to be a begrudging acceptance of the fact that Chambers Bay is an exam that must be prepared for.
McIlroy said this week he plans to arrive at the new venue the weekend before the championship (June 13-14), and Adam Scott will make a scouting trip to the Pacific Northwest on the Monday after the Memorial Tournament.
“From all reports it looks like something quite unique and even hearing Mike Davis' comments of a person without good knowledge of the course won't have a chance there just shows me that certainly you're going to have to get a few rounds in and hopefully a few different conditions to be able to play,” Scott said.
The frat brothers may not like the required extra effort, but an Open is no place to skimp on preparation.