Rude: Questions follow McIlroy all the way to Asia
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
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Rory McIlroy returns at this week’s Korea Open after a month off. From golf, anyway. Not from headlines.
Just this week, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland has been in the news for off-course reasons related to business and girlfriend. McIlroy has sued his former management firm and been countersued. On top of that, an Irish newspaper reported that he and tennis star Caroline Wozniacki have split, an assertion she has denied to a Danish newspaper in her home country.
It’s little wonder that the former World No. 1 says he’s looking forward to finding “solace” inside the ropes at a golf tournament.
While in Korea, McIlroy deflected questions about the reported breakup, about the “Are they or aren’t they?” storyline, saying he’d like to keep his private life private. What is certain is his mental toughness will be tested in his six remaining tournaments this year and probably well beyond, for the court case against Horizon Sports Management is not expected to be heard until next October.
McIlroy has debunked the belief of many that an equipment change contributed to a winless season up to this point. Rather, he has cited mechanical (swing), mental (confidence) and scheduling issues as culprits and has vowed to “finish strongly” in 2013.
In light of that and the swirl around him, it will be interesting to watch how well a nice young man can focus on golf.
• Tiger Woods says his back, which has stiffened up at times since mid-August, feels great. That’s good news for his great chase. If any things keep him from breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors – at this point, as he nears 38 – they would seem to be physical ailment and his driver.
The latter being said, more and more long hitters are succeeding by relying on 3-woods off the tee. Woods, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are the poster boys for such 2013 success. If you can move the ball out there 300-plus yards, apparently it doesn’t matter what club you’re using.
• Woods, by the way, says he routinely plays a recreational 36 holes in less than 3.5 hours and has finished 18 holes in less than an hour.
And here I thought he always lined up putts from five sides.
• A cash-grab trip to Bermuda for a few days in mid-October would seem like a decent deal for a major champion and his significant other. After all, the PGA Grand Slam shells out $600,000 to the two-day winner, down to $200,000 for fourth (last).
The event for the year’s major winners used to be an honor and a quick payday. But at least one major champion has missed the event in six of the last eight years. Tiger Woods has skipped it twice since last playing in 2006, and Phil Mickelson has taken a pass three times since last appearing in 2005. Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen have also missed during that time frame.
Which raises questions: Is there too much money and entitlement in golf? Are there too many tournaments? Has Grand Slam run its course?
The answers might be four affirmatives.
• If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times (always with due respect to Billy Casper): Louise Suggs, who recently turned 90, is the most underrated player in golf history.
The proof lies in her 61 LPGA victories, including 11 major titles, and the fact she gets less attention than a Tiger Woods practice round.
• The new PGA Tour season opened last week with so much fanfare and fireworks that my local newspaper didn’t have the Frys.com Open scores on Monday morning.
That means this was the score: Football 50, golf 0.
• Yes, the new season is only 10 minutes old, but it already has a leader as a hard-luck story. Brad Fritsch shot 64 in the second round, but then he withdrew the next morning before his tee time because of a bulging back disk.
• No small feat that a 50-year-old finished second at the Frys.com. It was Vijay Singh’s first Tour top 10 after 20 starts without one.
If that’s any indication, Singh’s year will be known for golf instead of deer antler spray and a lawsuit.
• Jordan Spieth played Pine Valley and Augusta National on Tuesday. That’s not a bad day of recreation, if you can get it, particularly if you’re not old enough to legally imbibe. Seems that if I played two different courses in a day when I was 20, they were Muni 1 and Muni 2.
• At first glance, I wondered why Spieth didn’t mix in Merion. But then he probably had enough of the place in June, when he shot 77-76 and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
• One other dreamy thought: Spieth or another with influence and means could stretch the glamour golf-and-jet fantasy by playing the so-called ultra-private big four of Pine Valley, Augusta, Seminole and Cypress Point on the year’s longest day in June.
I’ve done the quick math. Speed golf and a fast plane could make it happen.