Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam, NCG’s round-up of the week’s news. In this week’s rollercoaster of emotion, Rory McIlroy, Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, the Wild Thing John Daly, and President Trump wading into the Tiger vs. Jack debate.
Let’s start with our favourite Irish-American…
On again, off again, on again
You might remember Rory McIlroy caused quite a stir among fans and European Tour officials alike when he announced in November he would be concentrating on playing in the US for the most part of 2019:
Everyone has to look out for themselves, and next year I’m looking out for me.
It sparked panic at European Tour HQ, with CEO Keith Pelley flying to Belfast for “crisis talks”, for want of a less tabloidy phrase, but McIlroy’s decision has paid off with 10 appearances on the PGA Tour returning eight top 10s, including victory at the Players.
But McIlroy’s tempestuous relationship with the European Tour is seemingly back on again after it was reported he decided to take up membership before the May 1 deadline.
He is still expected to miss the Irish Open, a tournament he has hosted for the past four years, and instead play the Scottish Open ahead of the Open Championship at Portrush in his homeland. He is also expected to tee it up at Wentworth.
We imagine picking Ryder Cup wildcards is one of the most difficult jobs in golf. So 2020 captain Padraig Harrington has made it easier on himself by reducing the number from four to three.
My own feeling is that if you’ve played well enough to finish ninth on the automatic qualifying list, then you’ve done enough to be in the team.
“In my experience, a player is more comfortable when he has qualified automatically.
The move makes sense for the reasons laid out by the Irishman, with the added incentive of encouraging more US-based Europeans to play this side of the Atlantic between during the qualifying period, which will begin at this year’s BMW PGA Championship in September and end at the same tournament a year later.
Spare a thought for Russell Knox, who would have headed to Le Golf National if Thomas Bjorn had the same attitude as Harrington.
Not-so Wild Thing
John Daly has been granted permission under the Americans with Disabilities Act to use a buggy at next week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage.
Explaining why he requested it, Long John, who has a lifetime exemption to the tournament after winning it in 1991, said:
My knee is screwed. I had the meniscus cut out. I have osteoarthritis so bad. I can walk up a hill, I just can’t walk down one.
Daly will become the first player to use a buggy in a major since Casey Martin, who competed at the US Opens of 1998 and 2012, and it’s had a mixed reaction on social media.
Sir Nick Faldo was the highest-profile critic, although he kept it cryptic:
Walking is part of being a professional golfer. I’ll leave it at that.
While Daly himself added:
I hope I don’t get grief from the fans.
You… You’ve played in New York before, right?
Anyway, who cares? He’s not gaining an advantage and he certainly ain’t winning the thing. What’s that about us always wanting more characters in golf?
Donald vs. Tiger vs. Jack
And finally, Tiger Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump.
According to our friends at Wikipedia, it is the highest civilian award in the US, recognising those that have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”. (Safe to say Trump won’t be getting his own, then.)
Introducing Woods, Trump said:
He’s also a great person, a great guy.
Tell that to Elin.
Tiger introduced countless new people to the sport of golf from every background and every walk of life. He inspired millions of young Americans…
Just Americans, Donald?
…with his thrilling wire-to-wire victories.
Pesky fact: Only seven of Tiger’s 80 wins have been wire to wire.
Tiger Woods is a global symbol of American excellence, devotion, and drive. Your spectacular achievements on the golf course, your triumph over physical adversity and your relentless will to win, win, win. These qualities embody the American spirit.
We are in the presence of a true legend, and extraordinary athlete who has transformed golf and achieved new levels of dominance.
So I guess we know where he sits in the Tiger vs. Jack debate, then.
Here’s how Tiger reacted:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 6, 2019
Woods becomes just the fourth golfer to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Avid golfer George W. Bush handed Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus the award in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and 10 years later Barack Obama added Charles Sifford, the first African American to play on the PGA Tour and the man whom Tiger’s son Charlie is named after, to the list.
Right, that’s enough from me. Here is some work from my colleagues over the past few days that I highly recommend…