Is it time for Rory McIlroy to try a new caddie?July 23, 2017
It was another week of brilliant and infuriating inconsistency for Rory McIlroy at Birkdale. Will this be JP Fitzgerald's last Open as Rory's caddie, asks Dan Murphy.
McIlroy’s caddie under pressure?
We all know what Rory McIlroy’s caddie, JP Fitzgerald, said to his man on the 6th after that awful start on Thursday.
But even after this welcome intervention you have to question whether it might be worth the admirably loyal McIlroy trying his luck with another bag man.
Time and again in the majors we are seeing McIlroy hurtling up and down leaderboards. He rarely appears to be settled.
If JP can’t keep him a little more level then maybe somebody else can?
Having come into this week on the back of three missed cuts, a top 10 was, realistically, the height of his ambitions.
Rory will no doubt describe it as a good week in the circumstances. But as so often seems to be the case the lingering feeling is ‘what if’. You just know that deep down Rory is cursing his inconsistency and he will know better than anyone else that he is playing with too much emotion.
The 28-year-old is nothing if not headstrong. It’s clear that he calls the shots on the course. In the caddie/player dynamic, the received wisdom is that the latter should always have the last word – but there is a balance to be struck.
Take the 10th on Saturday when a 3-iron off the tee found sand and led to a double bogey.
“I took the wrong club on 10 off the tee,” McIlroy said. “You either hit a club that stays short of all those bunkers or you take a club that at least only brings the traps up at 300 into play and I did neither. So that was a really bad club off the tee. And then I got frustrated with that, just about got it out of the bunker and made six.”
If it isn’t the job of McIlroy’s caddie to a) give his man the right club, and b) manage his temperament, then you wonder what is.
It makes you wonder if JP will still be McIlroy’s caddie by the time we get to Carnoustie next summer.
Birkdale is a great Open venue
More than 235,000 fans made their way to Birkdale over the week of the Open – the third-highest total in the event’s history and the highest away from St Andrews.
This week overtook Hoylake in 2006 as England’s best-attended Open.
It isn’t hard to see why – there are plenty of chimney pots in the north west and this region, which loves its sport, is otherwise starved of professional golf.
Factor in a railway station adjacent to the course. Plus there are plenty of hotel rooms between Southport and Liverpool, 15 miles down the coast and well connected by said train.
Put it all together and you have a recipe for success.
It also helps when the weekend weather is decent.
Oh – and you have the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson figuring prominently on the leaderboards.
The golf course isn’t bad either.
The only problem with Birkdale’s spectator experience is that the layout of the course does not lend itself to being able to move from one side to another. It is effectively split into zones with the practice ground slap-bang in the middle of the property – as Jordan Spieth found out.
When you have more than 40,000 fans on the course each championship day, it can be difficult to get around.
Birkdale by numbers
Over the course of the championship, only three holes played under their par – the two par 5s (15th and 17th) and the short par-4 5th.
The hardest hole, as expected, was the 6th (above), a par 5 for the members. It’s more than 500 yards from the back tee with a large bunker dominating the right side of the fairway at driving distance. It played close to half a shot over its championship par of four.
Next up was another long par 4, the 13th, which proved unreachable in regulation for many of the field on Friday when it was into the wind. Then it was the 18th.
Surprisingly, we then come to the 12th, the second-shortest hole on the course at 183 yards. The par-3 7th and 14th were also among the hardest nine holes. The week saw 36 eagles – 25 of them at the two par 5s and another seven at the 5th, where the tee was moved up on Saturday.