The Irish didn’t have the greatest of weeks. Rory didn’t get out of his WGC group, starting off with a loss against the veteran Dane Soren Kjeldsen. He actually played well, shooting four under, but Soren was soaring to the occasion of tackling one of the worlds best. A bye against Woodland and a tie with Grillo was not enough to see him out of the group. Not participating in Houston means we shall see him next in action at the Masters, and then the question is whether he is good to go or not. Shane Lowry had a much trickier group to navigate, having both Spaniards in the shape of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, and big hitter Kevin Chappell.
He tied on the first day with Garcia, which was to be his best result. He put in some decent performances, but such is the nature of match play, it meant an early exit. He too will be in action at the Masters, so here’s hoping for a good showing. In the final, Dustin Johnson continued his domineering and impervious form, beating hot prospect Rahm on the last hole.
He had gone four up after eight, the occasion possibly getting to Rahm in the way a stroke play wouldn’t show. The danger with a pairing like this is when they start to show the one upsmanship off the tee, and Rahm did find trouble. DJ being DJ was relatively oblivious to this and continued to chart a decent course, heading for the back nine. Rahm mounted a minor comeback on the back nine, whittling down the lead. There were plenty of high and low lights, such as Rahm putting off the green after Dustin air mailed his over the whole green. On the last, with a chance to level the affair, Rahm hit the most powerful of power drives, making it past the green on the final Par Four. Yup, a 356 yard Par Four.
Finding a drainage grate at the back fringe, he was well set to take the tie into extra holes. But, as he went to open the door on Johnson, another one slammed shut on him. Literally. Almost in his back swing, a door in the hospitality tents was audible as it clattered shut, take Rahm out of the moment. He left his chip more than forty feet short, hanging on a precipice and leaving a near impossible sweeper of a birdie putt to win. Dustin, though short on his approach, had two putts to win and duly delivered. He becomes the first to win back-to-back WGC events since the Big Cat, so is in esteemed company. Carrying the form of his life into the Masters, one wonders how his new found left to right shape sets up for Augusta. There is no doubt he has the necessary length, and now with the improved wedge game, he more than likely won’t have to worry about too many lag putts!
Down south in Puerto Rico, DA Points was the winner but Ireland’s representation never got going, and were culled for the weekend. Both Seamus Power and Graeme McDowell were eliminated. McDowell did put in sub par rounds but the cut line deemed it irrelevant. Power did post a very good 69 on the first day but a round of 76 send him collapsing down the board, and tumbling out of the competition. For a lesser tournament, it did have decent names in its line up, but our pair shot a good deal off the pace. Hopefully, it’s not a sign of anything major, and there is nothing to suggest a knee jerk reaction is warranted.
Sadly, the main story of the week was the heartbreaking revelations by Jason Day on Wednesday. Many, including yours truly, wondered whether he was fragile mentally. To the outside world, it looked like he was ducking and diving events. I did say in a previous Takeaway that I thought his game was coming together, but it seems he was merely threading water. We view sports stars through a prism of their achievements and abilities, with little regard of their life outside the glare of the media. That instead of being people, they are merely there for our entertainment because of the investment we have in them. How often do you see someone underperform and express annoyance as they’re given large sums for a relatively cushy number? There is a naivety to being a sports man that many fall for, and thanks to the disassociation many may have with those they follow, it is easy to gloss over. On Mothers Day, of all days, it is important to reflect on what Jason has been going through.
Having already lost his father at a young age, he fears losing his mother, who has sacrificed so much for him. What hurts the most is that it is outside of any major control. Luckily for him, he has access to quality care, but it shouldn’t detract from the real issue at hand. I get why he only revealed it recently, as another sad aspect of fame is the spotlight won’t come off you and it can be deeply unsettling. At times like this, the game should take a back seat to life. It puts everything into perspective. What’s a missed putt when someone you love is suffering. Of course there are many besides Jason that are less able to look after their loved ones, so think of them too. Be good to each other….