Jason, Jordan, Rory eye chance to salvage their seasons
July 26, 2016
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- July 26, 2016
- The PGA Championship offers one last chance for the "Big 3" to lock up a major victory before the season ends. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Less than four months ago, the golf world expected the trio of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy to dominate the majors. And with good reason – they had combined to win five of the eight previous majors.
Now, they line up for this week’s PGA Championship knowing only one of them can possibly end the season with a major victory.
Yes, their respective seasons have produced highlights. Day has three wins, including THE PLAYERS Championship and the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play. Spieth has two trophies and McIlroy fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning his home Irish Open. Yet there is still a sense of yearning for more, both from the outside and from within.
Tiger Woods would always say a year without a major was a disappointment. And while this trio has not been as blunt, you know part of them feels the same way.
“I think it is realistic (to win a major every year), I really do. I think that is achievable,” four-time major winner McIlroy says. “We've seen in the past that is achievable. That's the benchmark. That's what you're trying to get to.
“It's hard. It's so deep, but I guess '11, '12, '13, '14, in that stretch of four years, I averaged a major a year so there's no reason to think that I can't do that for the foreseeable future.
“I have to play my best golf, and sometimes it's hard to come up with your best golf each and every week. But I definitely think it's attainable.”
McIlroy described his season as “neutral.” He was T10 at the Masters, missed the cut at the U.S. Open before being tied fifth at the Open Championship in the majors thus far. Many players would love two top 10s in a major season. McIlroy wants more. He gives himself a B- grade but says he can turn it into an A+ this week.
“I think any time you walk away from a big tournament and you haven't lifted a trophy, it's going to motivate you, especially when you see the guys winning,” McIlroy said. “Sometimes you think that should be me, and it gives you a bit of a kick in the ass to get out there and go practice.
Rory McIlroy says winning a major per year is possible before the PGA Championship
“I'm trying to stay as positive as I can. I feel like I am positive because my game is in good shape but I guess just maybe running out of patience a little bit and trying to make it happen.”
With Baltusrol setting up for accurate, and perhaps long drivers of the golf ball, the Northern Irishman is liking his chances of turning his fortunes around.
“I feel like I'm swinging it well. I'm hitting it good. Every aspect of my game, I'm very comfortable with. So you know, combine that with the layout of the golf course here, and I feel like this is my best chance this year to win a major.”
For Spieth his frustrations boiled over at the Open Championship where he called out others for having unrealistic expectations. After a major season in 2015 where he finished 1-1-4-2, it was always going to very difficult to replicate. Add three further victories and a FedEx Cup title to his year and the bar would be hard for an Olympic pole-vaulter to clear.
“Expectation; it was something to be expected. I have my own goals, and it's just about staying focused on those. I don't think that I am a better player this year than I was last year. I think I'm the same player; that I've just been getting a bit too frustrated,” Spieth said.
“But recently, I've quickened my step. I've gotten back to kind of the gun slinger, the way that I grew up playing, which is just step up and hit it. I went from over-dissecting shots to really feeling like less is more.”
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson sympathized with Spieth, but expects the pressure will continue. Playing throughout the dominant Woods era, he saw first-hand how expectations on elite players surged to new heights.
“When you get to a certain level, if you don't win a major, the year is going to be a letdown no matter how you look at it,” Mickelson said. “Winning a major seems to make or break the entire year, no matter what you've done before or after, how many times you've won or not won, a major makes it a great year.
“Those are the expectations that have come from his (Spieth’s) great play in the past, and we have of him. And so I don't think those are going to diminish.
“I think we are still going to have those expectations of him. He's such a good player, and we've seen the level of performance that he's able to play at that we expect that every week. It's just difficult to do every week. In fact, it's not possible to do every week. Although Tiger did it for a while.”
Spieth is hoping his simpler game plan will help with his assault on Baltusrol. He turns 23 on Wednesday and has high hopes of celebrating by being around late Sunday.
“Simplifying things has really been the trend recently. It's really helped me,” he confirmed. “Akron, I didn't have my best stuff and we ended up third. The Open Championship, I hit the ball extremely well and just had an off putting week. I feel like I'm actually trending very much in the right direction right now.
“My goal has changed now to trying to win a career Grand Slam, and this would be a fantastic time to grab a third leg.”
And that leaves Day. A year after winning five times, including a major, and not being player of the year (Spieth took those honors), Day once again faces the possibility of playing great but not the best. His three wins are the most of any player, but Dustin Johnson’s wins at the U.S. Open and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in the last two months may carry more weight with his fellow TOUR pros who do the voting.
Day would like to change the conversation back his way and end talk of form dips.
“Of course I am motivated to defend the PGA Championship, but it is more about just winning again then defending,” Day said. “It’s been a pretty good year so far but it could obviously be better. And winning at Baltusrol would go a long way to making it so.
“I want to win more. I want to win every time I play. And while you can take positives from most weeks, winning takes care of everything.”
In the case of these three, winning this week would certainly take care of a lot.
Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy: Can they win this week?