McIlroy’s Run Set to End in The Barclays
No player has ever won a major, World Golf Championship event and the FedEx Cup in the same season but Rory McIlroy has a chance to achieve that unique feat ahead of the post season play-offs on the US Tour. However, although he can still win the FedEx Cup his unprecedented run of success could come to an end in The Barclays, the first of four lucrative play-off events that culminate in the Tour Championship.
The top 125 in the standings other than Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker are playing this week with the top 100 qualifying for the Deutsche Bank Championship next week. The best 70 will continue in the following week’s BMW Championship of which 30 will contest the Tour Championship with a chance to win the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus. Tiger Woods is another absentee but he was not a qualifier for the post season.
This week’s tournament is being played on a composite course at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. The par 71 layout measuring 7,319 yards is made up holes from the East, Center and West courses at the complex. The Barclays was first played at Ridgewood in 2008 and again two years later. The winning scores were eight and twelve under so in those two years the tournament was more than a putting contest. Mainly dry conditions and moderate winds should see relatively low scoring this time.
Sixty players that competed in 2010 return to the course this week. It represented a fair test four years ago that averaged slightly under par at 70.98. The overall success for hitting the fairways was 63% which made it the 21st easiest from the tee in 2010. The greens hit in regulation was two percent higher which made the course the 19th lowest in this respect. Scores on the three par fives were the highest in the non-majors that season. Strokes gained putting will be another key skill this week.
The star of the show and now world number one by some distance is McIlroy, the shortest priced favourite for a play-off event since Tiger Wood was at his best. He will be trying to beat the best field assembled this season outside the majors, WGC events and the Players Championship. Woods has not played enough this season to make the top 125 and has also decided not to play in the Ryder Cup for which he may not have received a wildcard pick anyway.
McIlroy scores highly for the two significant attributes of finding the greens in the correct number of shots and strokes gained putting. He is no more than average for driving accuracy and overall several other players have better skills’ profiles. However, McIlroy is playing so confidently that he could contend on a course not ideally suited to his game. He showed in the Open Championship that he has now a master of links golf, a form of the game in which in the past he has excelled at least.
At aged 25 McIlroy is now three quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam and only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won the each of the four majors at least once at a younger age. He has now won as many majors as Ernie Els and one less than Phil Mickelson and both of those players are well into their forties. McIlroy is the first European to win three different majors and has Nick Faldo’s total of six in his sights, the most won by a player born in Europe.
If the Irishman wins the US Masters next April he will join an elite group of just five players who have won each of the four most prestigious prizes in golf at least once. The media attention on McIlroy at Augusta will be huge but he has the temperament to handle the distractions and play at his best. He is destined to win a Green Jacket and that could happen sooner rather than later.
In terms of his standing in the game by the end of his career McIlroy is seen by Jack Nicklaus himself as having the potential to overhaul his total of 18 majors. That target now looks beyond Woods but at his current rate McIlroy can win 20 majors before reaching the age of forty. He should be at his best for the next fifteen years and that must be frightening for the best players in the world who he now beats on a regular basis.
The key to McIlroy’s success in his last three tournaments has been his driving which has been long and accurate, a rare combination. He hits the ball further and straighter than his contemporaries which takes the pressure of his approach shots. He is well above average for at finding the greens correctly and his putting is in no way a weak element of his game. That skills’ profile has made him unbeatable at the highest level in his last three tournaments.
There was a bizarre debate on the official website of the PGA tour about which player has been the best in the majors this season. Some American golf fan ridiculously suggested that Rickie Fowler is the player of the majors this season. Granted he has finished in the top five in all four but that cannot be compared to winning two of them as McIlroy has done this year. Fowler scores highly for strokes gained putting but is not in the top fifty for the two main accuracy skills.
If McIlroy is not able to maintain this magnificent run the veteran Jim Furyk looks a leading contender to take advantage of any dip in form. He has lost the knack to win in the last few years but excels on course that put a premium on accuracy over distance. Several other players look better equipped to this week’s host course than McIlroy but it would be good for the sport if he could continue his historic run.
On Par Profits