Chip Shots

Rory Back On Top

It always seems like every week on the PGA tour, a great story unfolds like a well-written Hollywood script. This past week, had it been a movie, there would be plenty of Oscar talk. The noise was incredible on Sunday, with all the almost forgotten roars of a Tiger Woods charge.

I have been fortunate enough to have covered all 14 of Tiger’s major championships and heard the incredible Tiger roars firsthand. Pure energy and excitement, especially on the back nine on Sunday.

The back nine belonged to Rory McIlroy. In his words, he played a “perfect round” and forced his way not only into contention, but into the winner’s circle, with five birdies in the last six holes. It was his first win since September 2016.

At just age 28, Rory has 14 victories on the PGA Tour, including four majors. He only needs to win the Masters to be the sixth player in history to win all four of golf’s majors.

However, last year, Rory’s injuries caused him to lose some confidence. A golfer with that problem is like an East End fisherman without bait. McIlroy has earned more money than he can spend in 10 lifetimes. I could probably do it in just two years.

Coming into the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory truly was in a slump. The thing about slumps is that they have no chance against talent. Rory has so much talent that he quit school at 16 to focus on his golf. Some say he was destined to be a star, as he was born in Hollywood. Hollywood, Ireland, that is.

Many would make the argument that Rory is Ireland’s Arnold Palmer, and indeed Rory freely admits the he is trying to pattern his life after Mr. Palmer. As a strange coincidence, Rory’s wife, Erica, shares the same birthday as Mr. Palmer, September 10.

Another coincidence is that Rory’s last win on tour happened on September 26, 2016, the day Mr. Palmer took his journey to the great fairway up above. Perhaps the fact that Saturday was St Patrick’s Day may have also inspired the well-liked Irishman.

Apparently, Tiger is exceeding all expectations. He played so well in the final round on Sunday that when he stood on the tee at the 16th hole, unbelievably he was only one shot out of the lead. The record crowds were 10 deep and plenty loud until Tiger hit his worst shot of the week, with an out-of-bounds drive that eliminated any chance of victory.

A few weeks back, Phil Mickelson posted a win 1687 days after his last victory. Had Tiger won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it would have been 1687 days since Tiger’s last win.

So, with Tiger back on his game, Phil back in the winner’s circle, and Rory’s infusion of confidence, the Masters anticipation meter is running high. Dream a little with me here . . . On the back nine on Masters Sunday Rory, Tiger, and Phil all tied for the lead. It could happen. Please don’t wake me — just let me enjoy the dream.