It was a happy day last Sunday for this blogger when Rory McIlroy put the finishing touches to his fourth victory in the last twelve months and regained the No 1 world ranking from Scottie Scheffler, who had held top spot since the Masters or thereabouts.
Rory was the defending champion at The CJ Cup in South Carolina and a blistering four-birdie blitz in the final nine holes afforded him the luxury of finishing with a couple of bogeys and still lifting top prize. All was well in my world until the American broadcasters put up the graphic below which resulted in a very nice drop of Rioja going down the wrong way and in the ruination of my favourite white tee shirt.
USA? USA? Is there something Rory hasn’t told us in this oh-so-strange year in the golfing world? Yes, I know he lives in America and yes, he has married an American and I suppose his daughter would be able to select just whom she might represent in the Solheim Cup twenty years hence, but – Rory McIlroy, USA??? This was even more disturbing than the news that Boris was cutting short his beach holiday and I was in a fever of anxiety until the final leaderboard was shown with the correct nationality and I was reassured that Rory would, indeed, be representing this side of the pond again come Rome and next September’s Ryder Cup.
You can understand why we won’t give Rory up too easily. He is the only golfer from the Emerald Isle, male or female, to reach No 1 in the world and he has done it now for the ninth time in his career. That was his 23rd win on the PGA Tour, the toughest tour in the world, and his sixth straight season with at least one win stateside.This time last year he was down in 14th/15th place in the rankings and a bit of a lost soul with his game. Granted it has been another major-less year, which hurts, but it has also been one of staggering consistency, all the while shouldering the responsibility of being the voice of the PGA Tour players in the whole LIV Golf scenario.
Rory’s ability to compartmentalise and “play with joy” again has been amazing and his transparency and willingness to let us share his ups and downs, and thinking, make him one of the best interviews in sport. Too many players bat the questions back with dull, unimaginative answers which makes for turgid viewing. I accept that many post-round interviews are very same-y and the questions uninspiring, but it’s part of a player’s job to engage and provide insight and entertainment. Laura Davies was particularly good at this but, to this day, too many trot out the same ole answers time and again. Take a leaf out of the books of Davies and McIlroy, please.
While Rory relaxes this week, his goal having been achieved, there are six women from these shores in New Mexico chasing their own dreams. This is the second iteration of the Women’s PGA Cup, which was played for the first time in 2019. Mirroring the men’s competition, this is for PGA members who are not exclusively members of a tour. They may well have been full-time players at one point, like Alison Nicholas, this year’s captain’s pick but most are principally involved in coaching, retailing or another branch of the industry, working their playing schedule in around their other responsibilities.
The GB&I team is led this year by PGA Captain Sarah Bennett and comprises five players, three of whom played last time – namely, Suzanne Dickens, Alison Gray and Heather MacRae. They are joined by Jessica Smart and captain Sarah’s pick, the redoubtable Ali Nicholas.
The team had a 22-hour journey to New Mexico but by all reports were enchanted by Twin Warriors Golf Club and course when they got there. There are six teams of five players playing a round a day for three days. Each day the best three scores count and the winners are the ones with the lowest cumulative score. Six professional golfers’ associations are represented – GB&I, USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Sweden so there will undoubtedly be some stellar play, new friendships made and several renewed. Despite the keen rivalry women’s golf will surely be the winner in this particular scenario.
Thanks to Sarah for her facebook posts and the pictures shown here – (that’s Twin Warriors golf course at the top, looking spectacular), although if I were her I’d be careful in that hot air balloon. It always seems to be the case that the passengers are required to ditch one of their number and as she’s non-playing captain…………..!
Good luck guys – we’re rooting for you.