x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Golf: A shock to the system so far

With Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els having captured the past three grand slams, one could say it has not been the best of years for golf's top-ranked players.

It has not been the kind of year Rory McIlroy envisioned after he reached the top ranking in men's golf.
It has not been the kind of year Rory McIlroy envisioned after he reached the top ranking in men's golf.

Ernie Els, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.

Back at the start of the year few people would have given that trio much chance of winning the first three majors of the season.

But they did and as a result they will be playing together in the first two rounds of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in South Carolina next week.

Few people would also not have expected Rory McIlroy having a best finish of 40th from the Masters, US Open and British Open - and on missing four halfway cuts so soon after going to world No 1.

So far it has not been the year Luke Donald or Lee Westwood wanted either.

Or Tiger Woods come to that.

There is still time, though.

With the London 2012 Olympics going on at the same time, this major might not attract the attention of the others, but winning will mean just as much.

Given his performance at the US Open and British Open, Woods is considered the clear favourite for the PGA title.

McIlroy, meanwhile, continues to struggle.

At Augusta in April, the Northern Irishman was one shot off the lead at halfway and looking good to make perfect amends for his closing 80 there a year earlier.

But he fell away badly with weekend rounds of 77 and 76, finishing 15 strokes behind the play-off pair Watson and Louis Oosthuizen.

In his defence of the US Open he crashed out on 10-over par at halfway, and in the British Open he finished 15 behind again down in 60th place.

And that after starting with a 67.

"I think the thing for me is to stay patient," McIlroy said.

"It's a 20-year career, so I'm not going to get too wound up just over a few weeks.

"I've got to keep working away, plugging away, working on the right things and eventually it will come around."

Asked about the coming Ryder Cup he added: "The thing about the Ryder Cup, I'm going to be left out if I'm not playing too good."

That simply will not happen and McIlroy knows it, but Jose Maria Olazabal, the European captain, will certainly be keen to see him back in sparkling form and confident mood that took hin to the No 1 spot.

The PGA Championship decides the eight players who will qualify automatically for the American team - all the usual suspects are up there - and will also be crucial in Europe's race, although that does not end until August 26.


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