Rory McIlroy used a time machine. Bobby Mac flip-flopped coaches. Both worked | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we recommend frying some cod and pouring a Guinness for optimal reading. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
As Rory McIlroy walked to the 17th tee at the Genesis Scottish Open, one shot off Robert MacIntyre’s clubhouse lead, his mind went back a decade.
He said he found his mind wandering to the 2013 Australian Open. As he walked to that 17th tee he was one shot back of local legend Adam Scott. Then?
“I holed a great putt on 17 for par to stay one behind playing the last, and then he made bogey and I made birdie and I was able to clip him by a shot,” he remembered.
Now here he was, 10 years later, playing a different national open, down a stroke to a different local legend. DataGolf gave him a 4 percent chance of winning, given he was playing two of the course’s toughest holes. But then McIlroy flighted a 5-iron at the par-3 17th to five feet. He made the putt. And then he hit a breathtaking flighted 2-iron into the wind to 10 feet on 18.
“The two iron shots I hit, 5-iron on 17 and then that 2-iron into the last there, they are two of the best iron shots I can remember hitting, especially under the circumstances,” McIlroy said afterwards.
As if to underscore the impressiveness of McIlroy’s 18th hole, playing partners Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Kim battled their way to double bogeys, effectively icing McIlroy while he pondered the 10-footer. What was he thinking as he waited?
“I was just trying to take the scene in,” he said. “Everyone around the green — y’know, I get to do this to try to fulfill my boyhood dreams, I guess. So to be on the green in that environment, and the more that you can try to smell the roses along the way, so that’s what I was trying to do. I was just trying to take in the scene and do anything to not think about the putt that I was going to try to hit.”
Then it went in.
Who won the week?
With his win, McIlroy became the first player in history to win the Open Championship, the Irish Open and the Scottish Open. He also guaranteed he’ll be the betting favorite going to this week at Hoylake — although whether that’s unwelcome pressure or useful confidence is still TBD.
Linn Grant triumphed at the Dana Open, logging the first win of her LPGA career in commanding fashion. She led by six heading to the final round, shot 68 and won by three, punctuating the matter by hitting the green on the par-5 18th while the group ahead of her was still on it. A two-putt birdie was a fitting way to finish.
Nelly Korda won on the Ladies European Tour in its Aramco Series event held at Centurion outside of London. The win was significant for Korda, who led after each round, won for the first time on any tour in 2023 and now has 13 worldwide wins. It was also significant because of what it represents for the larger golf world. Korda elected to play the LET event rather than the LPGA’s Dana Open, and this series is sponsored by Aramco (the Saudi national oil company) and PIF (the Saudi sovereign wealth fund) and played at Centurion (which just hosted a LIV event). It’s another reminder that while the world of men’s professional golf tussles its way through PIF-Tour negotiations, the LET and LPGA Tours are already deep in it. Could we be seeing Aramco and the PIF sponsoring similar events on the men’s side in 2024 or 2025?
And Vincent Norrman won the Barbasol Championship, the PGA Tour’s opposite-field event in Kentucky. He bogeyed the 18th hole in regulation but his par on the first playoff hole was enough to take down Nathan Kimsey. While Grant’s victory was just the latest in an ongoing wave of Swedish women’s golf success, Norrman’s win is the first on the PGA Tour since 2017.
And then there’s Steph Curry, who’s worth shouting out just because, well…
Robert MacIntyre played 17 terrific holes before a sketchy tee shot off No. 18 — and then followed that with one of the shots of the year. He made the birdie putt, finishing off an incredible round of 64, and then soaked in the roars of the home crowd on his way off the course.
“I’ll never forget it. I had to take a minute coming off 18. I mean — that’s why I play this sport,” he said. “That’s why I’m in The Scottish Open, and if not The Open, The Scottish Open will be up there with the event I want to play for the rest of my life. It’s one I’ve dreamt of winning since I watched at home, and I thought today coming down once I birdied 18, I thought, this might be the one.
“But it’s not to be just now, and plenty of years ahead.”
Scottie Scheffler, Ben An and David Lingmerth finished T3. For Scheffler it was his seventh (!) consecutive top five. Lingmerth had actually logged five finishes of 11th or better since the beginning of the season but hadn’t made a cut in his seven most recent starts. Lingmerth, An and Nicolai Hojgaard (T6) earned their way into the Open Championship as the three lowest scorers not already qualified.
Allisen Corpuz didn’t waste any time backing up her U.S. Women’s Open win — she fired the lowest final round of the day on Sunday at the Dana Open and finished solo second.
“Yeah, my game’s just felt like it’s in a really good spot. Just haven’t really put four solid rounds together until, obviously, last week and this week,” she said, still a champion understater.
Not everybody can!
Disappointing missed cuts for Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth, Sungjae Im, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and, well, everybody who missed the cut was probably disappointed. Extra Open prep for them! If it’s any consolation, Collin Morikawa finished T71 at the 2021 Scottish Open and then won the next week. Plus Cameron Young and Viktor Hovland MC’d last year and then finished second and fourth at the Open, respectively. And Jay Monahan returns to work this week after a tough one last week; it’s clear his players are ready to demand some answers.
WHAT WE’RE READING
What’d we learn from the Senate hearing and the appearances of two Tour reps? If you, like me, don’t watch a ton of Senate hearings, you learned a little more about how those work, too. Seems decidedly like a mixed bag. From a golf perspective, we mostly learned how the beginnings of the PGA Tour-PIF deal came to be, from the involvement of Yasir Al-Rumayyan to Jimmy Dunne to Rory McIlroy to Jay Monahan and more. I wrote about that here if you want more; otherwise I’ll keep this space hearing-free.
A short-term shift.
In mid-June, Robert MacIntyre shook up his team with recapturing a lost joy.
“I’ve not been enjoying my golf. Everyone has probably seen that,” he told the Scotsman. He looked to his past. He replaced Mike Thomson, his caddie of nearly three years, with Greg Milne, the caddie who helped him to the DP World Tour’s Rookie of the Year honor in 2019. He gave one particularly telling quote.
“We were new to the tour and just thought ‘peg it up and take on the world’. That’s what we did and that’s what we are trying to get back to.”
He also replaced Simon Shanks, who’d been his swing coach for a year, with instructor David Burns, who he’d worked with before then.
But only the first change stuck.
MacIntyre says the caddie change was the right call, referring to it as “permanent.” As for his instructor?
“I changed coaches there for two-and-a-half weeks and then I thought in my head, this isn’t the right time or place to be doing this just now,” he said.
MacIntyre made the tough phone call to reunite with Shanks. It didn’t take long to have a positive effect; he contended at the Made in Himmerland and wound up T4. This week?
“I’m really proud of myself,” he said after his Sunday 64. “Me and Greg and the whole team behind me. I’ve put in a hell of a lot of work the last five, six weeks with all the changes going on in my team; the trust of switching back to Shanks when I really needed him.”
That was a vulnerable admission. The act of going back to Shanks was a vulnerable admission of its own.
“I’m happy and smiling, and Greg [Milne] has done a great job of keeing me happy and smiling. And you know what? We can play good golf from there.”
So far, so good.
In other coaching news, we turn to Butch Harmon’s latest pupil. Turning Rickie Fowler into a winner was one thing. Turning Steph Curry into an ace-making, eagle-draining, highlight-reel champion is another thing altogether.
(My colleague Claire Rogers was all over this one.)
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
I arrived at SeaTac with a golf travel bag well in excess of 50 pounds (equipment, clothes, extra clubs for a buddy, etc.) hoping desperately for some leeway from the good people at Air Canada. The gentleman checking me in saw I was going to Manchester and asked if I’d been tracking the Scottish Open. Long story short, he didn’t put the bag on the scale, I rolled it to the oversized dropoff and now, golf gods willing, it’ll be there when I arrive at baggage claim.
5 things to watch this week.
1. Scottie at the Open
Scottie Scheffler has finished top five in seven consecutive starts. He’s finished in the top 12 — get this — 19 events in a row. He’s finished T10-T2-3 in this year’s majors. He has a massive lead in the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s actually going to feel wrong if he finishes the year without a major. But that’s the game…
2. Brooks at The Open
Brooks Koepka finished T2 at the Masters. He won the PGA. And he finished T17 at the U.S. Open. In other words, Major Brooks is back, he’s among the most compelling golfers every time we stage one of these and we’d be foolish to count him out. As for his Open resume? He had two top-six finishes in a row before an injured version of himself missed the cut last year.
3. Rory at The Open
The tragic subtext of Rory McIlroy‘s career at the moment is that everything he accomplishes — FedEx Cup championships, Players Championships, PGA Tour wins, perfectly flighted 2-irons more — only heightens the demand for him to win another major. That’s not to say they’re meaningless on their own. It’s just that another major would amplify everything he’s accomplished in the nine years since his last. McIlroy won the last major played at Hoylake. How ’bout this one, too?
4. Jon Rahm at The Open
Anytime we’ve forgotten about Jon Rahm these last few years it hasn’t taken him long to remind us of his presence. We’re now six starts removed from Rahm’s Masters win, and he hit us with a little misdirection in his last start, a missed cut at the Travelers. But he still has six wins in his last 19 starts. Would another be so shocking?
5. Cam Smith at The Open
Our defending Open champ, Cameron Smith, finished T9 at the PGA Championship. He finished fourth at the U.S. Open. He just won at LIV London. If he drives it relatively well at Hoylake there’s every reason to think he’ll be in the mix.
Final thing to watch: this website! I’ll be on property starting late Monday morning. We’ll have comprehensive (bordering on exhaustive?) coverage of the event all week long.