Mark: As much as I would love to play Shinnecock it just plain terrifies me. Of all the US Open venues in the past 25 years what would be your top two on your wishlist to go and play and why?
James: Pebble Beach seems like the ultimate bucket list course. It would make a great album on Facebook. But Pinehurst seems like the sort of place I’d enjoy even more. I’d like to spend a week there with a pencil bag, plenty of balls and two or three of my favourite golfing pals.
Keel: I’ll be controversial and say Chambers Bay (with new greens), simply because it was such a stunning venue and was so far from the norm that we have come to expect of US Open courses. For the final pick, Pebble Beach edges Shinnecock in a photo finish.
Dan: Good question, Mark. I’d love to have a go at Oakmont, just because it is the ultimate US Open venue, the final word in grinding. I’ll also take Merion because it’s arguably the best course on the rota. Those lobster-pot flags are very cool and in normal play it’s only 6,500 yards on a very small parcel of land. Please can I go and do this next week?
James: Where does Rory McIlroy go from here? Think back to 2014 when he had the world at his feet – can anyone believe he’s not won a major in the last four years? It’s more than a concern. Does he need a new caddie who can tell him a few home truths rather than just hand him his driver on every tee?
Keel: Rory is a delight to watch when he’s at his best. The problem is, his ‘best’ just doesn’t happen often enough. He’s too reliant on favourable conditions. Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose have all figured out how to play pretty much anywhere. McIlroy almost always needs soft conditions to perform at his best. He’ll definitely win another major, and I’m pretty certain it’ll come at either the Masters or PGA Championship. But it might take another few years…
Dan: The thing is, Rory is headstrong. The kind of person who would do the opposite of what his caddie was telling him just to prove his point. He likes to work things out for himself. I think the most concerning element is that he doesn’t seem to be maturing as a player in the way we hoped he might. He’s still at his best on long, soft courses in perfect conditions. As soon as he doesn’t have that, the game doesn’t seem quite as easy for him. This week was over before it had even started and the majors just don’t come around often enough for that to be in any way acceptable.
Mark: I do think it’s partly mental, it almost has to be. He’s so honest and open about how he’s prepared that we all get an insight into how much effort he puts into the majors and then how little he gets out of it. The four big ones are closing in on him a bit; he gets spooked by Augusta, he doesn’t seem to like traditional US Open layouts and people wonder about his skills in the wind so our Open doesn’t seem to help matters. He must be praying for some friendly PGA tests.
Then again he could win the lot in the next two years given how good he is. It’s so frustrating. I would like to see him with an experienced caddie and that’s not a knee-jerk reaction to this week, but more of a thoroughbred who needs some handling.