It’s the first occasion that the Arnold Palmer Invitational does not have the great man himself, sadly. As such, it’s a pity that more of the higher echelon of the field didn’t pay more respect by entering. I do understand that the scheduling doesn’t help, especially in the lead up to the Masters.
But if the current crop owe Tiger their livelihoods, he owes the great man his. It is hard to appreciate the impact that he’s had on the game, but using huge is an understatement. With the advent of televised sports, the King was one of the first celebrities of the game that could be shown to a wider audience.
Compared to most that went before him, he had a much more humble upbringing, but didn’t let that hinder him. He was the fiercest of competitors, and his rivalry with Nicklaus is one of the greatest in all of sports. He would have appreciated the gutsiness of what was on show this Sunday. McIlroy’s return to form was only bettered in the end by Marc Leishman clinging in there on the last.
Kevin Kisner started the day four good from the field. Sadly for him, there were a few Sunday jitters, and he wasn’t alone. Had Charlie Hoffmann had a more consistent front nine, he would have been able to possible eek out a playoff. For the Irish perspective, there was naturally a good showing. Graeme McDowell, in his role as guest host for the weekend, put together four decent rounds to finish one under. A tie for twenty-eight, but a decent showing nonetheless for the Portrush native, who remarked that his next sightings in Europe would be for the burgeoning Rolex Series, one of which will be in Portrush itself.
After a mixed affair to begin the tournament, Rory was in blistering form on Sunday. He put on a clinic on driving and wedge shots alone, but my favourite was the chipped runner on sixteen that near went in for eagle.
He did get wild on the back nine, really gunning for the victory, leading to wayward hits, but there is a feeling that he is getting close to his pinnacle. Maybe the injury break was a good way for him to recharge and have a greater reserve of energy for Augusta in a few weeks. Maybe The Donald is good for your health. But let’s not take anything away from the winner. The Aussie ground out a fantastic result, capped off by a great eagle and an even greater par save on the last to avoid letting it slip away. He is a man that is a decent outsider for majors, as shown by his appearance in the playoffs for The Open two years ago.
He has finished in the top ten of the Masters, so wouldn’t be a bad each way bet there, not that he brings some form into it. The second of the WGC’s presents itself in Austin starting Wednesday, as the World Matchplay showcases five days of battle golf. It’s probably the worst way to warm up for the first major of the year, and feels shoehorned into the calendar, but it is still enjoyable fare, as it mimics March Madness with the bracketology. It at least ensures that no golfer leaves after one outing, with all having three rounds against opponents.
Variety like this is lacking in the game. I do feel that they could present a more palletable World Cup of Golf team event to this effect. Some wish not to partake in it, as it buttresses the end of season and the bigger players do need down time, so why not use a slot somewhere in the early season instead?
Use WGC criteria (and more importantly money) to achieve greater participation. To paraphrase Arnie, this weekend was a weekend well played. As the buzz mounts for Augusta, expect many Masters theme previews. But know that there should only be one place for you to turn to!