Each week, four of the NCG team get together to ask each other the pressing questions. The only rule is the question must be golf related. In this final Open edition of Fourball, James Savage, Steve Carroll, Alex Perry and Dan Murphy take to the tee to discuss Europe’s Ryder Cup chances, Tiger Woods’ major chances, and much more…
James: Was that one of the all-time great final Open rounds from Molinari? To not make a bogey was remarkable. He never once seemed to have more than two feet for his par.
Steve: It was an exemplary display of ball-striking in conditions that, eventually, wore down everyone in contention. He didn’t blink, never really looked in serious trouble, and then to cap it off with his approach on 18, with the Claret Jug almost in his hands, was something special – and a mark of his composure. We’ve always known how good he is with the longer clubs and he used the biggest round of his career to put on an exhibition. Everyone talks about Faldo in ‘87. For me, this was better.
Alex: Before his final round, Molinari said: “It’s not a day to be aggressive – it’s more a day to make as many pars as possible.” While so many of his rivals – some the game’s very best, remember – were being aggressive, the Italian was quietly plotting his way round in par. In the conditions and circumstances, it was the perfect final round in a major, and one of the very best in Open history.
Dan: I think it was. It had so many ingredients, so many storylines. Some point-missers will begrudge Molinari his major moment, and will talk about what might have been for the likes of Tiger, Jordan and Rory. Actually, it was Schauffele who came closest and lasted longest but never mind. There were seven players within a shot of the lead as the champion played the last. Two hours earlier, Molinari was a bit-part player in the drama. You had home hopes, all-timers, an underdog, the lead changing hands. There was a truly great course, exceptionally well presented, in classic links conditions. There were birdies and eagles but also bogeys and doubles. The test was stern but not impossible. The champion produced exceptional golf, the best of his life, over the weekend. I’m not sure what more you could wish for?
Steve: With Tiger Woods back in the Sunday major mix, it’s now with more expectation than hope that he’ll eventually get the 15th title in his trophy cabinet. Which one provides his best chance?
Alex: Well, the PGA Championship – because it’s next on the list. But you have to say The Open or The Masters. Augusta is obviously a course he loves and one on which he has had wonderful success, and his links record is phenomenal. Having said that, they’re off to Portrush next year, a course he, I assume, won’t play until the week before.
Dan: Open or Masters. But what a chance this was. The worry would be that when he hit the front he visibly wilted for an hour. That’s not what used to happen. His front nine was a masterclass in control, course management and ball-striking. Let’s be honest, he was all over the place for much of the back nine. Certainly until it was too late. On the positive side, it was amazing to see him genuinely contend once more. I absolutely loved it.
James: I’m not so sure it’s a formality that he wins another major. He gave it everything he had this week and came up short. No injury excuses, can’t say he was undercooked. He will never dominate in the way he has before because there are just too many good players capable of winning majors. He’s not the best player in the world anymore. Can anyone honestly see him blowing away the field in a major like he used to?
Who will win more majors out of Spieth and McIlroy, and Europe’s Ryder Cup chances are discussed as Fourball continues on the next page…