Rory v Jordan. Most eagerly anticipated. But this particular duel, rather disappointingly, turned out to be a non-contest.
If Rory’s the golfer we all want to be, then Jordan’s the guy you dread being drawn against.
Their approach to the game could hardly be more different, which makes them a fascinating case study.
McIlroy’s great strengths are his poise, swagger and power, his long game peerless, his ball-striking truly a matter of awe.
Spieth is all about getting the job done and he appears to be better from inside 20 feet than just about anyone who has ever played the game.
McIlroy’s driving is his strongest suit – booming, towering draws are de rigeur – and the nearer he is to the hole then the less impressive, relatively speaking, he is.
Rory v Jordan – opposites
Spieth is the diametric opposite. He’s often crooked from the tee, and much shorter. People with far greater expertise than me in the mechanics of the golf swing will explain this is on account of a strong grip and a relatively steep angle of attack – the Texan effectively has to hold off all his shots to prevent them from going left.
His long game is all about getting him into a position from where he can unleash his short game. His wedge play is phenomenal and once he can see the white of the cup then you are almost filling in the scorecard before he has pulled the putter back (and, in fairness, you would have plenty of time to do so because among the phenom’s many admirable virtues, playing quickly isn’t one of them).
Temperamentally, too, in the match-up of Rory v Jordan they are poles apart. Jordan is all chatter and body English, pleading with his ball and in constant conversation with his caddy.
Rory says much less, and is not demonstrative in the same way.
But Jordan is always ready to play his next shot, mentally. Like Tiger Woods before him, he seems to have mastered the art of getting a bad shot out of your system and then moving on.
The bad shots seem to do nothing apart from spur him on to redouble his efforts. There are more of them than you might expect for a man who could have won all four Majors last season but never are they compounded. Instead the wrong is invariably righted and on he progresses.
Rory v Jordan – Emotional
Rory, by contrast, is more emotional. One birdie leads to another; but the same can be true of his bogeys on occasion.
On Saturday, time and again we saw holes begin with a poor Spieth tee shot and end with a seven-footer drained into the centre of the cup. While McIlroy, it seemed, was incapable of holing a single putt of note.
As the round got away from him, there was Rory taking on an ill-advised hook from the trees for his second to the 11th.
We all know that dead-straight approaches can be made to look like hard pulls at that particular hole. Rory’s recovery from the trees never looked like staying dry.
On the same hole, Jordan, being far from flawless, had to hole a three-footer to match Rory’s double bogey. Needless to say he holed it. Then found the centre of the 12th green and poured in the putt. Rory, half as far away, inevitably missed.
As Rory continued to take the maximum number of shots at all times, so Jordan’s contrasting parsimony was even more apparent.
In the nicest possible way, because these two are friends on and off the course as well as rivals, you sensed Rory would have liked to punch him.
The point is that if you were comparing them in a Rory v Jordan Tale of the Tape then very few categories would be drawn. If you could somehow combine them then you would be left with the ultimate golfer. On this occasion, Jordan’s half of the bargain was worth a little more than Rory’s but that won’t always be the case.
In the bigger picture of Rory v Jordan, Rory will no doubt get his own back, probably spectacularly.
But there is a suspicion that Jordan’s brand of make-do-and-mend total efficiency might just be a better bet more often than not compared to McIlroy’s irresistible brilliance when he is at his best.