McIlroy in the dad club as toughest test looms: golf talking points


Hong Kong (AFP)

The second majors of the year for both men and women dominate AFP Sport's golf talking points this week:

- Baby boomers -

Rory McIlroy will play his first major as a dad at the US Open this week, after his wife Erica gave birth to daughter Poppy on August 31, and now he can join in the baby talk with plenty of his rivals on course.

World number one, FedEx Cup champion, PGA Tour player of the year and 2016 US Open champion Dustin Johnson has two sons with partner Paulina Gretzky, five-year-old Tatum and three-year-old River.

Defending champion Gary Woodland has three children with wife Gabby: three-year-old son Jaxson and year-old twin girls, Maddox and Lennox.

McIlroy's Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood, the 2018 US Open runner-up, and partner Clare's son Franklin will be three at the end of this month. While fellow Europe star and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose has Leo, 11, and Lottie, eight, back home in the Bahamas with wife Kate.

And of course McIlroy's good friend Tiger Woods is a doting dad to 13-year-old daughter Sam and 11-year-old son Charlie -- reportedly no mean junior golfer himself -- from his previous marriage to Elin Nordegren.

"If you look at fathers in all different sports, golf, tennis, it's not a new lease of life, but it's a different perspective," said McIlroy after practice at the New York course at the weekend.

"It's your career, but at the end of the day you get to go home to your family, which is the most important thing."

That perspective just might do the 31-year-old Northern Irish world number four some good as he seeks to end a six-year major drought this week and lift his second US Open after winning his maiden major at Bethesda way in 2011.

- Treachery afoot -

This week will mark the sixth US Open at Winged Foot, rated as the most treacherous host of all, with its notorious rough, vast bunkers and multi-crested greens so slick that 2006 runner-up Colin Montgomerie regarded them as harder to master than Augusta.

Since it first played host in 1929, only one player has won with a score under par, Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984.

Hale Irwin's victory in 1974's "massacre at Winged Foot" saw him finish seven-over -- a score that remains the highest to win a major since the word "par" entered the golfing lexicon in 1911.

"They had trouble finding their ankles, much less the golf ball," said one player that year as a succession of the world's best lost balls in the rough and watched putts run off the greens.

The last time Winged Foot staged the US Open, in 2006, Geoff Ogilvy won without breaking par in any round after one of the wildest finishes ever seen in a major.

A stroke behind were Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson, who both double-bogeyed the 72nd hole when needing a par to win, and Jim Furyk, who missed a five-foot putt to force a playoff.

Someone has bet $45,000 on Mickelson to win this week at odds of 75-1. If the 50-year-old does complete his career slam at Winged Foot, the payout would be an astronomical $3.375 million. "Hoping for both of us I have a 3 shot lead on 18 tee," Lefty tweeted.

"The golf course gets tough on the first tee and never gets any easier," Jack Nicklaus famously said.

He should know. In 1974 on his opening hole of the tournament he had a downhill 25-footer for birdie. He walked off four putts later with a double-bogey six.

- Great wall of Dinah -

With no fans, the massive blue barrier behind the 18th green for the LPGA's ANA Inspiration at the Dinah Shore course in Rancho Mirage should have been surplus to requirements.

But the 'Great Wall of Dinah', which normally fronts a temporary grandstand perched above, was installed anyway and ended up stealing the show at the second women's major of the year.

Lee Mi-rim was trailing by two when she deliberately powered her second at the par-five closing hole into the blue fence, which handily also prevents overhit approaches from finding a watery grave.

She then chipped in for an eagle and won her first major in a playoff with Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.

"I definitely thought to utilise the backboard," the canny Lee said. "I practised that shot."

Some were not so enamoured. "Honestly, I wish they didn't have that wall there," Korda said presciently earlier in the week.

Television commentator Judy Rankin chimed in: "It has been way too artificial. There was no real reason for it to be there. It has affected play way too much."

- World rankings -

Top 10s, week beginning September 14, 2020:


1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 10.16

2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 9.85

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.68

4. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 7.91

5. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.68

6. Webb Simpson (USA) 7.11

7. Xander Schauffele (USA) 6.42

8. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.09

9. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 5.88

10. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.79


1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 7.97

2. Nelly Korda (USA) 6.68 (+1)

3. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.43 (-1)

4. Park Sung-hyun (KOR) 5.51

5. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.43

6. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 5.42 (+3)

7. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 5.24 (-1)

8. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 5.14 (-1)

9. Park In-bee (KOR) 4.90 (-1)

10. Lexi Thompson (USA) 4.77 (+2)