Tour Confidential: Rory McIlroy’s interview, Tiger’s TGL team and more
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 a shocking new Rory McIlroy interview, Tiger Woods’ TGL team, changes to the World Handicap System and more.
1. In an interview with Paul Kimmage of the Irish Independent, Rory McIlroy laid out more details surrounding the Ryder Cup dust-up with Joe LaCava and McIlroy’s parking-lot tirade. “Joe LaCava used to be a nice guy when he was caddying for Tiger, and now he’s caddying for that d—,” said McIlroy, referring to Patrick Cantlay, who McIlroy added his relationship with is average at best. What’s your take on McIlroy’s candid remarks, and where does this story go from here?
Nick Dimengo, senior editor (instruction) (@ndimengo): It’s interesting to see Rory reignite this beef after seemingly moving on and focusing on some little project of his called TGL. For someone elite like him to pull a move like this only adds more drama to an already tense golf scene – and I’m here for it!
Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): The pearl-clutching take would be to act surprised at McIlroy’s gloves-off bluntness, and to lament the (imaginary) time when golf was more of a ‘gentleman’s game.’ But the better take is: at least Rory’s honest. Inevitably, Cantlay will get asked about it, giving him the chance to spice things up further, but my guess any comments he might serve up would be pretty mild.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): One of the things that made this dust-up so interesting is the way Rory and Cantlay represent such a contrast in styles — the way they play, the way they carry themselves, the ways in which they see the world. An oversimplified version of that dichotomy would be that McIlroy follows his heart while Cantlay follows his (capped or uncapped) head. What’s intriguing about this story going forward? Both Cantlay and McIlroy will have a hand in shaping the PGA Tour’s future.
2. More TGL news dropped last week, as we found out which team Tiger Woods will play for: his own. Woods will be among the ownership group of the last of the six teams announced, Jupiter Links Golf Club. Anything we can glean, about the league or its future, with Woods taking an ownership stake in his squad?
Sens: I take it as a sign that he either really believes in the concept. Or that he believes his participation is critical to its success. Probably a little bit of both. It’s an entertainment industry fact. More people watch things when Tiger is involved. Imagine if he someday gets good at live banter. He’ll be unstoppable.
Dimengo: Like Sens said, I think it shows his belief in the idea; which makes sense. After all, his name is attached, and it’d almost feel like it would be missing something without Tiger there.
Dethier: It establishes that Tiger Woods’ squad will be playing home games every week. It reminds us that that probably doesn’t mean much — to start with, at least. It reminds us that Jupiter, FL is the international golfing capital of the world.
3. What story is leading the front page of your make-believe newspaper tomorrow: Camilo Villegas, who has endured battles on and off the course over the last several years, winning in Bermuda for his first victory in nearly a decade? Or Max Homa, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge and might just be inching closer to becoming the top American golfer in the world?
Dimengo: Rudy, the Mighty Ducks, March Madness Cinderellas; I’m always a fan of underdog stories, so give me Villegas! After making a coaching change in February, he’s slowly on track to prove that the hard work and dedication is paying off. Homa is great, but I’ll be rooting for him come major season when he’s seeking his first.
Sens: Villegas, and it’s not close. His spiral was so prolonged he essentially vanished from the game. Not many manage to come back from that kind of oblivion. Overlay that with what he’s been through in the realm that really matters–losing a daughter– and the story is even more compelling. Homa’s immensely likable, but I’m with Nick: wake me when he’s in contention down the stretch at a major.
Dethier: These two are correct, of course. Villegas is the clear answer, and Sens isn’t just saying that because he tipped him in his picks column! But I’ll just add that it was very, very cool seeing Homa and Justin Thomas, among others, taking the trek to South Africa to play “Africa’s Major.” The DP World Tour has an incredible schedule, geographically, and it’s terrific seeing PGA Tour stars tap into that. Let’s hope that’s codified in some way going forward.
4. Golf’s governing bodies announced last week that short courses and nine-hole rounds (plus partial rounds after nine holes) can now be entered and immediately count toward your Handicap Index. Like the change? Or not a fair scope of someone’s game?
Dimengo: I’m all for it! With the winter season in full effect (meaning shorter days to sneak in rounds of golf), I welcome the update. Look, if I shoot the round of my life during a partial round, I want that to be part of my index. Then again, if I shoot the worst round ever, maybe I’ll rethink this … but I’m a half-glass-full kind of guy.
Sens: For sure. The more, the merrier. I especially like the partial-round option — it’s just a more faithful reflection of how a lot of people play the game these days (and it’s how they already handicap things in a lot of other places, including the UK and Ireland). Par-3 courses? Ditto. There are more than 700 of them in the U.S, and a lot of people play them. Only about a quarter of them have been rated so far, but more will be coming online by spring, and all of them are expected to be rated by the end of 2024. Will it be a fair reflection? My armchair guess is that if you only post scores from par-3 courses, you might find that your index doesn’t travel quite as well on full-length courses. There’s just more trouble to get into. The rating system is meant to account for that, of course. But even the handicapping poobahs at the USGA acknowledge that on a par-3 course, you might be expected to shoot your handicap a tiny fraction more often than you would on a big course. Fewer blow-up holes. It will be interesting to see how projections compare to reality when it all gets going officially.
Dethier: Sure, why not! Look, my buddy Pat plays at Rainier Golf Club in Seattle, where the fairways make bowling lanes look wide — but can get a little soggy. Take him an hour south to Chambers Bay and we may as well be playing a different sport. The point is, we’re already comparing apples to oranges. May as well include some clementines, too.
5. We’ll put a bow on the LPGA Tour season on Sunday with the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburón in Naples, Fla. What’s the storyline viewers need to track?
Sens: For American fans, especially, Rose Zhang remains must-watch TV.
Dimengo: Simplest observation: The fact that Lydia Ko won’t be there. With the defending champ failing to qualify, it’ll be interesting to see who can fill the winner’s circle by the end of the tournament.
Dethier: There’s a certain gravity that comes with finishing the year at World No. 1, so I’m eyeing the finishes of current top dog Ruoning Yin (7.76 avg pts), No. 2 Lilia Vu (7.73) and No. 3 Celine Boutier (7.62) each of whom is looking to cap off a career year in style.