Tour Confidential: Nelly Korda, Rory McIlroy, PGA Championship thoughts 

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy on Sunday after his win at the Wells Fargo Championship.

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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week, we discuss Scottie Scheffler’s, Rory McIlroy’s and Tiger Woods’ chances at this week’s PGA Championship, Nelly Korda and more.

1. The 2024 PGA Championship begins on Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., where Scottie Scheffler will be the betting favorite and Brooks Koepka will defend his title. (There’s no word yet if Scheffler’s baby was born, but he’s on the interview schedule for Tuesday.) Any reason to think three weeks off could hinder Scheffler’s chances?

Ryan Barath, equipment editor (@rdsbarath): At this point with Scottie’s game, I don’t think three weeks off, even when it includes the birth of your first child, will do any harm to his golf game. If he can come out and win the RBC Heritage the week after winning the Masters, and deal with the whirlwind whiplash from that, I think he’s going to come out ready to go at Valhalla.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): As someone who just became a dad for the first time, I would say that’s the sort of thing that would throw off anybody’s golf game, even the World No. 1 — but I’m guessing we have different childcare setups. It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see him contend. But we could forgive him if he showed up at Valhalla with something slightly less than his best stuff.  

Nick Piastowski, senior editor (@nickpia): The three weeks off won’t be an issue. The child, though? Quite possibly. Thoughts will be elsewhere, understandably so. Then again, if he wins, days after becoming a new father, his legend grows even more. 

2. Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele battled it out in the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship, with McIlroy winning by five shots after an impressive six-under 65. A good confidence boost (for both) with the PGA Championship up next, or not quite so with the World No. 1 not at Quail Hollow?

Rory McIlroy pumps his fist at Wells Fargo.
Rory McIlroy blasts past Xander Schauffele to win Wells Fargo Championship
By: Jack Hirsh

Barath: Both players separated themselves this week on a long and firm golf course, and it would be hard not to come away from this event without a lot of confidence heading into the PGA Championship. Sure, Scottie wasn’t in the field this week, but you can only beat those who are in the field. Rory went ballistic on the back nine while Xander stalled, and hopefully this continues for Rory at the PGA.

Dethier: Massive confidence boost! Nearly every good PGA Tour player teed it up at Quail Hollow and Xander Schauffele beat them all like a drum. All of ‘em except for Rory McIlroy, that is, and he proved to have far more offense when it mattered on Sunday. These guys both know winning the week before a major is no guarantee of anything — their most recent individual PGA Tour victories came at the 2023 (McIlroy) and 2022 (Schauffele) Genesis Scottish Invitationals, the week before the Open, which neither won. Still, short of Scheffler, who’s playing better golf?

Piastowski: Very much so, especially for McIlroy, the World No. 2. Everything seemingly clicked, against 67 of the PGA Tour’s best, on a course that next year will host the PGA. But I’m also wondering about the Zurich and his win with pal Shane Lowry. McIlroy talked this week of being freed up now. That can mean a lot of different things. But maybe this is the result for McIlroy. And yeah, there are good vibes at Valhalla, where he last won a major.  

3. One story that dominated the pre-tournament chatter was the status of Webb Simpson’s seat on the PGA Tour Policy Board. Simpson previously tried to step down, but only if McIlroy would take his spot. That, however, didn’t happen, and Simpson is serving the remainder of his term. “There was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on, for some reason,” McIlroy said. Reading between the lines, why wouldn’t some feel comfortable with McIlroy coming back on? Could he help golf’s division? And, finally, do you have any issue with him rejoining after he resigned his spot months ago?

Rory McIlroy and Jay Monahan.
What’s going on with Rory McIlroy, Jay Monahan, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour board?
By: Dylan Dethier

Barath: A couple of things here. First off, even as someone who pays close attention to the men’s professional game, all of this is just an absolute slog, and at this point, I just want someone to wake me up once this whole thing is sorted and done with. Secondly, when it comes to people being uncomfortable, I believe there is a big schism between those who are OK with letting some of the PGA Tour history die so that there can finally be a true world tour, and those who still want to keep the PGA mostly structured the way that it is now. Saying that, I think Rory has made it clear that he’s on the side of the world tour, and is ready to negotiate with the Saudi PIF and bring all of the best players back together, while others aren’t quite ready to lose out on their share if that happens. As for coming back, Rory appears to be thinking a lot longer term, and for that reason, if he wants to come back in some capacity, he should be able to.

Dethier: As it turns out, though, McIlroy is a member — albeit a non-voting member — of the transactions subcommittee, which [pause for yawn] is actually doing the meaningful negotiating with the Saudis. It would have been sort of weird to reinstate McIlroy on the board after he’d stepped away just months ago. But he still seems a key figure in the process. 

Piastowski: Bunch of light questions here! Let’s try to answer ’em, though. The uncomfortability? Tough to say without hearing from the sources. Maybe it’s that McIlroy once left the board and his commitment is still questioned. Maybe it’s a situation that Barath describes, where McIlroy wants a world tour, and others don’t. All good theories. Could he help golf’s division? You bet — and as Dethier notes, he will be, as part of the transactions committee. (Lots of committees these days!) The move is a good one, should you want an agreement. McIlroy has previously said he has at least some sort of relationship with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. Any issue with him rejoining? Maybe a little. If it’s as simple as Simpson wanting McIlroy his spot, and McIlroy accepting, I think that’s OK.  

4. The PGA will also be the first time we see Tiger Woods since he finished 60th at the Masters, and he’s returning to a course he won the PGA on in 2000. Does Woods finish better or worse than he did at Augusta?

Tiger Woods is embraced by his mother, Tida Woods, during the Mercedes Championships at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California.
Tiger Woods’ mother gave him more tools than you might realize
By: Michael Bamberger

Barath: I hate counting Woods out, but Valhalla is very long, and the field as a whole is a lot stronger than the one he faced at the Masters So with all that factored in, I would be more surprised if he makes the cut, rather than missing it. 

Dethier: Better! Stop doubting this guy.

Piastowski: I’ll go in the middle. Worse than the Masters, but only slightly and he makes the cut. The temps seem good — for the fans, for achy joints. 

5. Nelly Korda tied for seventh at the Cognizant Founders Cup — Rose Zhang edged Madelene Sagstrom to win — to end her streak of consecutive wins at five, which tied the all-time record. Korda’s remarkable run often evoked Caitlin Clark comparisons, or at least the conversation topic of if she could help elevate women’s golf like Clark did for women’s basketball. But do you think those comparisons were fair?

Rose Zhang smiles after winning the Cognizant Founders Cup
Rose Zhang wins Founders Cup as Nelly Korda’s streak comes to unceremonious end
By: Jack Hirsh

Barath: Women’s golf needs more mainstream coverage if it wants to break further into the general sports landscape, and unfortunately it still gets second billing to things like the PGA Tour Champions circuit. I think with the right investment, the best LPGA Tour players could be just as recognizable as the best PGA Tour players, which is still miles behind other sports like the NBA.

Dethier: I think the Caitlin Clark comps are well intentioned but misinformed. Korda has no team, no rival, no built-in fanbase, no March Madness tournament. I wrote about this earlier this week, but Korda has been right to point out that all she can do is keep playing top-tier golf — the sort she’s been playing — and let any boost happen naturally.

Piastowski: Points well made by my colleagues. The comparison is convenient, as we’re also in the midst of Clark fever. But it’s on the shoulders of Korda’s tour, and the broadcasters of Korda’s tour, and the advertisers of Korda and Korda’s tour to get her name out there — because it sure seems like she’s doing her part.   

6. Let’s wrap with one final PGA preview question. What’s a juicy storyline no one is talking about right now?

Dethier: Jordan Spieth seems injured and out of sorts — but he’s still going for the career grand slam! Don’t worry, though, nine good holes on Thursday and you’ll hear plenty about this.

Barath: Wow, even I forgot about Spieth’s career grand slam chance here until you mentioned it, Dylan, but I’m gonna go with Rahm. He’s still searching for an individual win on LIV and he didn’t play that well at the Masters. If the PGA isn’t going well, we could be in for a very angry and frustrated golfer come Friday afternoon.

Piastowski: This will get some run during the week, but club pro Tracy Phillips will be making his PGA Championship debut at the age of 61. But his story gets better. He once quit golf for 20 years, before being drawn back. Wild.

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