“Everything felt like a Thursday, rather than a Sunday of a major championship”.
For McIlroy, the No. 1 ranking is potentially in play: Spieth could seize it by finishing third or better. Who will be the No. 1 golfer in the world after this weekend?
However, McIlroy acknowledged all but one of those tournaments took place before Spieth’s phenomenal performances in 2015, which have seen the 22-year-old win the Masters and US Open and finish a shot outside a play-off in the Open at St Andrews. Then he got even more diplomatic, saying it depends what part of the game you value most.
It has been eight years since Woods won the last of his 14 majors and even the man himself was unable to talk up his chances of claiming a fifth PGA Championship. That’s a hard one…. “Hopefully we can all get into contention”.
And what was his opinion?
McIlroy, Spieth and Open champion Zach Johnson were due out at 1320 local time (1920 BST), with Tiger Woods, 2010 victor Martin Kaymer and Keegan Bradley among the early groups.
Tiger Woods appeared to fix some of the big misses off the tee with his driver but his putter stayed as frigid on the back nine of his opening (and, likely, penultimate) round of the season as it was on the front at Whistling Straits.
The Iowa native downplayed the added attention he received Wednesday. “I thought I was going to miss it more than I did”, he said. Consistency may be an issue, as might rust, but keep in mind he’s the guy who has won this tournament two out of the past three years.
“We believe that both will build off each other’s momentum and deliver two magnificent championships befitting a world-class destination like Chicago”, PGA of America President Derek Sprague said.
Although Whistling Straits has a reputation as a bomber’s course, Watson said accuracy will be as important as length off the tee.
McIlroy said Spieth’s success in majors has motivated and inspired him to win one this season. There was no pain, no swelling.
“If I hadn’t passed that test, I wouldn’t have been here”, he said.
“I looked down and 30 seconds later it got the size of a tennis ball, basically because all the fluid came out of the joint capsule, so it just filled up”.
There’s little reason to doubt McIlroy in his return.
“Expectation levels are the same”, McIlroy said. “If anything, having to sit those tournaments out, especially the Open Championship going back to St. Andrews, which is probably my favorite venue in the world, it gave me a huge sense of perspective”.
“If I play well, I play well and I’ll play in more events”.
Expectations haven’t changed for Spieth, either.
Eventually, of course, he’ll have to play the 18th, but not Tuesday. He is prepared for a tough test. “It feels like you’re in Europe at a British Open“. This isn’t a chance to make history. After the final round, he knew he had done enough, but winning the major was a big surprise.
LAND OF LINKS: There is some good news, too, for Illinois golf fans.
So one box has been checked in a major way. “Certainly they have gone according to plan up to this point, but that first part of that goal has yet to be accomplished”.