Rory McIlroy speaks his mind (again), Matt Fitzpatrick's slice of history, and has Ian Poulter accepted he'll never win a major? Alex Perry rounds up the week's news in The Slam
Hello. Welcome to this week’s Slam. And just like that the PGA Tour season is over. But don’t worry, a new one is just around the corner! But, as you know, the so called “Fall Series” events aren’t great, so much so that some of the PGA Tour’s biggest names, including Rory McIlroy, are over here to play at Wentworth ahead of the final push on the European Tour as it reaches its climax in Dubai.
Much has been said about the PGA Tour season and how it’s very much geared up for the run between the Players, in its new slot in March, and the Tour Championship, which has been shunted forward to August.
Both those tournaments were won by McIlroy, and you can always rely on the (still) four-time major champion to air his views on golf’s bigger issues publicly.
“If [majors] are spaced so closely together, will fans only care from the second week of April to the third week in July?” he said ahead of the European Masters in Switzerland.
He added: “I’d like to see them spaced out like tennis does. With the Australian Open in January and the US Open going on now, they’ve a nice nine-month window of relevancy.”
Hallelujah! I’ve been banging this drum for what feels like forever now. Have the PGA Championship in January, the Masters stays in April, the US Open stays in June, and the Open moves back to September. A nine-month window of relevancy, if you will. Oh, he’s already said that.
And with World No. 1 Koepka almost certain to take a bit of time out of the game, McIlroy has no interest in slowing up as he builds his assault on topping the rankings from this side of the Atlantic.
“Wentworth is obviously big for points and there’s a WGC coming up,” said McIlroy, who has spent 95 weeks as World No. 1, the last of which was in 2015. “There’s still a lot to play for. That’s my focus for the rest of the year – getting closer to that No. 1 spot.”
McIlroy began that assault as the European Tour heads to Crans-sur-Sierre this week – you know, the tournament we all watch because it’s just so pretty.
And while all eyes were on McIlroy, who lost out in a play-off to Sebastian Soderberg, double defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick missed out on the chance to write himself a slice of golf history in the Swiss mountains.
With a win, the Sheffield golfer would have become just the fourth player to win a single European Tour tournament three years in a row. Alas it was not to be, but can you name the others? I’ll tell you at the end so you can think about it while you read on.
Has Ian Poulter accepted the fact that he’ll end his career without a major?
There isn’t much in the game Poulter hasn’t won. He has 17 wins around the world on various tours, including two WGCs, but his career is and will perhaps always be best known for his Ryder Cup record. The man they’ve dubbed ‘The Postman’ – because he always delivers – has so far played on six Ryder Cup teams, five of them successful, and delivered (ah, it works!) 15 points from a possible 21.
And it looks like he’s happy with that.
Confirming he will appear at Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship in its new September slot, Poulter said: “The fact that it will be the first counting event for the 2020 Ryder Cup of course gives it some extra importance for me, as making it onto Padraig Harrington’s European team will once again be my biggest goal over the next 12 months.”
I once asked Poulter if he’d give up his Ryder Cup wins for one major.
“Not a chance,” he replied. “No. Not in a million years.”
It was like I’d asked him to choose between his kids.
Sam Torrance, a Ryder Cup legend himself, has told BBC 5 Live he no longer plays golf after facing up to a reality that so many athletes have to at some point.
“I’m not very good,” explained the 65-year-old, who won 44 times on tour and took part in nine Ryder Cups as a player and captain. “The hardest thing is I’m mediocre compared to what I was.”
“I said to my manager, ‘Tell me my scores over the last three years and my finishing positions.’ She told me I was 200-over par and my best finish was 35th. So it was time.
“That was two years ago and I’ve not played since. It was tough to let go but I’m glad I did it when I did.
“Even with my mates I’m struggling to find the impetus to get up there and do it.”
Only nine players have more European Tour wins than Torrance.
Right, that’s enough from me. I’ll leave you with this video of Tiger Woods hitting a hole-in-one on his professional debut, 23 years ago this week…
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 28, 2019
Oh, and those quiz answers: Ian Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open 1990-92), Nick Faldo (Irish Open 1991-93), and Colin Montgomerie (PGA Championship 1998-2000).