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The mercurial McIroy continued his year of stagnation, again failing to reach the weekend of another tournament –the 4th missed cut this year. His ‘write-off’ year showed no sign of improving at the British Open at Muirfield. An opening round of 79 put to bed any hopes of picking up his 3rd career major. Now with only 5 top 10 finishes this year, the much heralded prodigy of golf is failing to reach his expected potential.
Next week marks the beginning of his defence of the PGA golf championship- golf’s fourth concluding major. A toothless attempt to retain the Wanamker trophy has been linked to his low confidence and off-course interests both considered responsible for his deterioration in performance. McIlroy must surely look at this defence as an ideal opportunity to salvage something at the end of such a lacklustre year.
By his own admission McIlroy has lost his mental edge, on and off the fairway. Below-par performances, teamed with recent psychological short comings have made McIlroy a shadow of his former self, incomparable to the golfer a year ago, who destroyed the PGA championship field by 8 shots claiming his second career major.
For the U.S. PGA’s 95th anniversary, the event will be hosted at the Oak Hill Country Club, New York. The timeless Rochester (East) course boasts previous winners from Jack Nicklaus to more recently, the European Ryder cup winning side of 1995. Since the club’s establishment at the start of the 20th century, the course has flourished, becoming known as one of America’s most historic and trusted courses. Having previously held all of the largest US based events available, Oak Hill CC has proven time and again its worth on the US golf circuit.
The tree lined, narrow fairways and thick rough found here are indicative of many traditional American golf courses. Known for its tough, but fair holes, accurate ball positioning from the tee will be rewarded with birdie opportunities. Hitting the fairway will be considered a necessity for all players, avoiding the punishingly thick rough at all times – if they want to secure the coveted trophy.
The signature par 5, 13th hole, in front of the newly refurbished Tudor-style clubhouse will prove a challenge for even the tour’s longest of hitters. Reachable in two – for the select few – water bisects the monster hole at 300 yards making the drive from the tee even more troublesome. Creek averted, a long iron up to the ‘Hill of Fame’ will offer a tricky downhill putt – a great hole for both players and spectators alike.
On the PGA Championships return to Oak Hill there could be hopes for a similar outsider to achieve the same feat as Shaun Micheel did in 2003 – lifting the trophy whilst ranked 149th in the world. At a time when the field is wide open and no players dominating, this tournament could be the beginning for somebody to jump-start their career. With Woods, Snedeker and Mickelson all coming off the back of recent big wins, the Americans will look to home advantage to inspire victory here in Rochester. Oak Hill offers an intriguing test, while difficult to select a winner, consistency will be crucial. The Ohio WGC-Bridgestone Invitational showed Woods back to his unbeatable best but I’d keep an eye on those who are driving well to pick up golf’s final major.