Why Tiger and Rory take very different paths | Golf News and Tour Information
TULSA — There’s a certain majesty to the 10th tee in Southern Hills, with slivers of fairway stretching into the distance and glimpses of the skyline far beyond. Minutes after 8 a.m. Thursday morning, Tiger Woods started his PGA Championship with a workout that seemed to stay in the air forever. Woods held his follow-up just a little longer than usual, and they might as well have tanned him on the spot. Woods’ round was a monument to his courage and stubbornness. Even with his body betraying him in real time, he kept pushing forward, grinding a treacherous 74 on a golf course that left him in 99th place after the first round.
Woods’ place in the pantheon is assured. Prior to the tournament, he stayed on script emphasizing his intention to win the event. But those cameos in this final act of Woods’ career are about his perseverance, not his performance. Fans who thronged the winding Southern Hills fairways were giddy just to get a glimpse of this living legend, no matter how badly he limped or how erratic his ball-striking became as the round continued in the unforgiving sun. .
Rory McIlroy walked along Woods and, compared to Tiger’s labored gait, the little Northern Irishman looked like he was dancing on the grass. Golf never looks more fun than when McIlroy is in the air. Tiger stalked his way, playing old man golf with plenty of irons off the tee, while McIlroy wielded his driver with abandon, throwing 10 drives over 325 yards, including a pair that went 378 yards. Then Woods sounded like he found religion. “We were talking about it [with caddie Joe LaCava]and the days of the Lee Janzens and the Scott Simpsons and the [Nick] Faldos of the world, playing this kind of golf is gone,” said Woods, who averaged just 293.4 yards on his tee shots, ranking him 136th in a field of 156 that includes 20 club pros and a long history. champions. “You go out and hit the driver a lot, and if you have a hot week, you have a hot week and you’re up there. The game is just different.
It was as if McIlroy enjoyed showing off to Woods, an inspiration and a burden. After Rory’s resounding victory at the 2012 PGA, giving him two major championship wins, Padraig Harrington felt that McIlroy, not Tiger, could be the biggest threat to Jack Nicklaus’ gold standard of 18 wins in the major championships. But McIlroy, who turned 33 this month, has been stuck on four major wins in the past eight years, a vexing drought in what should be his peak. (In that streak, he’s won it all: 11 PGA Tour events, including The Players, two FedEx Cups and two Race to Dubais.) He’s had a sad habit of exploding in the first round of major tournaments, with his first – round scoring an average of a whopping 2.24 more shots than rounds 2 through 4. He developed a kind of stage fright. So maybe that PGA Championship did McIlroy a favor by throwing him into a super group that included Jordan Spieth. McIlroy never argued with Woods when it really counted, and because of injuries or missed cuts, Tiger wasn’t even on the property for two of McIlroy’s major championship triumphs. On Thursday, Rory birdied his last hole for a five under 65, giving him a one-shot lead over Tom Hoge and Will Zalatoris. McIlroy clearly enjoyed playing his best in front of such demanding audiences, although he later denied it: “I think when your game feels like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and to really stick to your game plan, to execute as well as you can, and to kind of stay in your own little world. I did very well today.
McIlroy will face a stern test in his Friday afternoon tee time, with a more baked and windy Southern Hills. “It’s a good start, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself,” he said.
For Woods, just making the cut will be a win. After hitting just three of his last 13 greens, which led to seven bogeys, he offered a sobering recap of his restless right leg: “Loading hurts. Pressing hurts. Walking hurts. The twist hurts.
And yet he persists. Right now, golf seems to bring Woods little joy; the catharsis simply comes from gutting 18 full holes. McIlroy has often been oppressed by his outlandish talent and the weight of expectations, but he’s clearly having fun again. They will walk side by side in Round 2 of this PGA Championship, each continuing their quest, each seeking different relief.