June 23, 2015

Dear PGA, golf writers, Spieth and McIlroy, yes, we have a rivalry

Jordan Spieth (corrected throughout), after winning the Masters, downplayed the idea that he was in Rory McIlroy's league.

Rory, the week before the just-passed U.S. Open, did a LeBron James and claimed to be the best in golf.

Well, Rory couldn't putt well and LeBron James couldn't carry a team forced to start Matthew Dellavedova and others.

That said, let's start with some 21st century golf history.

Since the turn of the calendar, five people have won back-to-back majors. Tiger Woods has done it multiple times, most recently at the 2006 Open and PGA. Phil did it before him once, with the 2005 PGA and 2006 Masters.

We've had three others, all since Tiger's last major.

The first is Padraig Harrington, with the 2008 Open and PGA.

And, in the last year, we've had the last four majors won with two back-to-backs.

And, both McIlroy and Spieth are, at a minimum, better than Harrington and at least as good as Philly Mick. Both of them.

We have a rivalry,  And, yes, per this Irish Times piece, it's what we've been waiting for. And, Spieth is still downplaying it somewhat, but not as much as two months ago. Whether it's true humility, a psychological control mechanism for himself, a bit of anti-Rory or a combo of all of the above and more, I don't know. But, Jordan? You're part of a rivalry now.

Further proof of that? Spieth has closed McIlroy's once-massive gap in the Overall World Golf Rankings to less than two points.

Everybody's been wondering if Rory is the next Tiger or Jack. What if, instead, he's the next Arnie, aka a step up from Phil, and Speith is the next Tiger or Jack? After all, after two early U.S. Open wins, a lot of people thought Ernie Els was the next wunderkind, and Tiger then blew his doors off.

Back to the current rivalry, and Rory's comments a week ago.

Golf is an individual, not a team sport. Rory's not lugging around Delly, the highly inconsistent J.R. Smith, or the players formerly known as Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. He's in this solo.

Sure, Rory's arguably got the best swing in the game today. But, maybe he's not as much a "grinder" as Spieth. Or he may let putting go by the wayside at times. In any case, maybe he needs the focus a real rivalry brings. And, maybe, per the last part of that last link, Jordan will have his own struggles in dealing with a new level of fame. Time's going to tell soon enough.

Spieth is already starting to enter the higher stratosphere, getting some free swag from Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, after a shout-out to him. (And giving a shout-out to Stephen Curry.)

Finally, Spieth has Michael Greller. Rory doesn't.

It's arguable that Steve Williams helped Tiger indeed on winning a couple of his closer majors. The same may be true now.

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