On this week’s episode of “As The Tour Turns …,” Rory is back at No. 1 with a bullet, Tiger’s bad back is back, Phil might be back to form and our JC pros back are back to see if they can predict two straight major champions.
The fourth and final major of the year, the PGA Championship, is being staged at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville. This is Valhalla’s first major since the 2000, when Tiger Woods fought off a game Bob May in a three-hole playoff. Since then Valhalla has hosted, among other events, the 2008 Ryder Cup, but not one of the big four.
The Tour scarcely could’ve fit more drama into its quick turnaround from the British and is down one major star (and we all know why), Tiger is wounded once more and Rory is rolling as the major championship season concludes at Valhalla.
Now to the preview and then the picks …
Another Rory Run Away? – Save for a Sunday pursuit from Sergio that never really got there, Rory’s win at the British was a run away as he notched his third major before age 25.
He just bested Sergio again at the Firestone after a three-birdie burst to open his Sunday round. Rory is rolling and making it feel like his reign at No. 1 could be here to stay this time.
A major double to end the season would have Nike creative writing commercials as fast as Rory could make them – & give Tiger a break from the major history discussion because it would be all about Rory going into the Masters next year looking at a career Grand Slam.
The golf world is teed high for Rory right now. Can you let it fly again?
Rory v. Sergio III? – Sergio’s resurgence has been reduced to secondary storyline status thanks to his two runner-up finishes and other Tour goings on, but it can’t be ignored.
The Spaniard is playing well and has experience on his side, but he needs to eliminate the Sergio moment (i.e. leaving it in the bunker in the British) that golf fans have now come to expect, especially in majors.
Can he do it at Valhalla? Stay tuned.
Is Rickie Finally Ready? – T5, T2, T2. That’s Rickie’s record in the majors this year.
That’s impressive and has started the clock again on when Rickie’s going to finally break through in a major.
His work with Butch Harmon has clearly paid off. Now can Rickie finally make it happen on Sunday?
He’s got legions of fans just waiting to celebrate the big one with him. Rickie vs. Rory has rivalry potential, but Rickie’s got to come through on Sunday for it to happen.
Will Phil Finally Thrill? – A 10-birdie Sunday at Firestone for a season-best 62 provides some hope Phil Mickelson’s so-far-forgettable major season can provide a final flurry of excitement.
To do it, Mickelson will have to harness all phases of his game, something that has proven elusive for Phil this season. But Mickelson exposed optimism to CBS after his Sunday performance.
“My confidence heading into the PGA is astronomically higher than it was 24 hours ago, and I feel like, heading into Thursday’s round, that I’m not searching to find something, that I have what I’m looking for,” he said. “I just have to maintain it. … As I was saying yesterday, I’ve struggled with my iron play and not making enough birdies, and then I come out today and make 10. That to me was the big change.”
Mickelson also expressed enthusiasm for the Nicklaus-designed Valhalla course. It would be yet another classic Phil recovery for him to make a run into the weekend.
Now the predictions, led off by Jay Navarro, who correctly forecasted Rory at the British.
Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn
Rory McIlroy – His game is at its pinnacle.
Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch
Rory McIlroy – Was first in driving distance and sixth in driving accuracy at Firestone. Combine that with never missing a four-footer and he’s a one-man wrecking crew. That’s why he’s the No. 1 player in the world.
Rickie Fowler – Yes, I am taking Rickie again. The only player on Tour with top-five finishes in the previous three major championships has to break out sometime…
Steve Stricker – He’s my long shot because he hits it right to left and is one of the best putters in the world. Plays really well on Midwestern golf courses and is winding down his career. A major championship would be the cherry on top.
Scott Butler, Tournament Director, Twin Oaks
Rory McIlroy – Look out, Tiger. Here comes Rory.
Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North
Phil Mickelson – Like him after his 10 birdies on Sunday; he is due for a good tournament.
My dark horse is Rickie Fowler – would be a great win for the U.S.A. but … my final pick is Justin Rose – the European golfers are just playing better now!