PGA At Baltusrol But No Rory
If you’ve never spent much time in New Jersey, the sight of the Baltusrol golf club in Springfield might cause some confusion. Yes, there is the industrial section of the state, much of it chemical in nature, and shall we say, overly fragrant? Every state has an industrial section, some bigger than others, and they all have to put it somewhere, so no harm, no foul. The gorgeous Baltusrol lay-out, however, is not in that part of New Jersey. Â When one leaves the storage towers of “industry row,” New Jersey gets green all of a sudden – very green, and very posh when it comes to golf. Jack Nicklaus testified that Baltusrol was among his most favored courses, one of the finest, in his opinion.
Baltusrol, appropriately enough, is where the PGA is being played this week, a tournament that has been going strong for well over a century. It is the fourth of the modern grand slam, and Rory McIlroy has won it twice.
Knowing that, we dare not think of him as an under-achiever at any level. To win two PGAs after six or seven appearances is impressive, indeed, but it does point to some erratic golf on the Irish star’s part over the past year or two. McIlroy, who was once set up as the great foil in a rivalry with Tiger Woods, is of late almost as difficult to find as his media opponent. In fact, he has disappeared from the PGA leaderboard entirely. All right, I’ll tell it like it is – he missed the cut.
Perhaps it’s because we have so many distractions in the 21st century, whether it’s alternate forms of entertainment, participation in other sports, personal relationships – you know, life. It’s hard to practice all the time when you’re a handsome and eligible bachelor with a cool accent – or, maybe that’s not it at all. One thing is for certain, however, It’s extremely rare for one of the greats to miss the cut in an important major. I can’t ever remember Woods or Niclaus doing it. In their prime, they didn’t play yo-yo golf with the leaderboard, at least not at the PGA, they didn’t.
This jewel of a course, built by A. W. Tillinghast, probably gave the golfers of 1922 fits, and it still is, especially Rory. Among those who did not miss the cut, we find a mixture of the familiar with the less known. As of the beginning of the third round, Jimmie Walker holds the lead at minus 9. Jason Day is coming up from behind at 7 under, and Henrik Stenson, winner of the most recent major, sits at 6 under, That’s all easy striking distance on a course that can turn on a player the way it has through the week, keeping the leaders below ten under, and knocking poor Rory out of the thing altogether.
Patrick Reed has made his presence known by climbing to minus 5. Kevin Kisner joins him there, having already finished this third round with a 65. And, for disappointed Irish fans, never fear. One of your favorites has returned. Padraig Harrington has also finished the third go-round with Â 65. But this Rory thing still bugs me. No one that good misses the cut, not on a week like this, do they? Not on the PGA, one of the four biggest weeks of the year. Is that normal? Has it happened often? Win twice, then disappear?
The tournament that carries the namesake of its hosting tour has always surprised, since we watched it in black and white as kids. It is emblematic of the game’s ability to surprise in general, one of the most important reasons that we watch it. But Rory, this week? Of all weeks?