Writing from Carmel, Indiana
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
There are two defending champions at this year’s BMW Championship.
There’s Jason Day, who ran off and hid last year at Conway Farms Golf Club.
Then there’s Rory McIlroy, who won at Crooked Stick Golf Club four years ago, and returns to the scene of the sublime as the winner Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
These two superstars answered as many questions about a third party on Wednesday than they did about their games or their chances at Crooked Stick, where the BMW – the 113th Western Open to old-timers – commences with a threatening weather forecast on Thursday morning.
It was to be expected, for the third party was Tiger Woods, who announced in the late morning that he hopes to return to competition next month, and both were eager to see the 40-year-old in action after so much inaction.
“This time I think he’s done it the right way by waiting and not coming back too soon,” Day said. “I’m definitely looking forward to watching those tournaments and seeing how his body holds up and how the mental side and obviously the golf side of things hold up as well.
“We chatted a bit and he felt like he was pretty positive with how the progression was going with his body. He felt like he was starting to make the turn with it and obviously if we’re going to see him three times in the fall, that means his body’s in good shape.”
McIlroy, like Day, was curious about now only how Woods plays, but how he plays in comparison to how he has played, and warned against unfair comparisons against his halcyon years.
“That 10-year stretch (of 13 major titles among 58 PGA Tour wins) is the best stretch of golf we have ever seen on the planet by anyone,” McIlroy said. “I don’t care what anyone says about Jack Nicklaus’ record or anyone else, that 10-year stretch of golf was the best.
“People are going to expect him to go out at Napa and play well, and it’s going to take time. It’s a process. Sometimes you have to take the bigger picture. I’m sure he’s sort of thinking play at Napa, but the long-term goal is if he can get himself ready for the Masters next year, that’s where he wants to be.”
This is the 10th edition of the evolved Western-cum-BMW, with 69 players – British Open Henrik Stenson champion is missing, resting for the Ryder Cup – chasing two things: The $1,530,000 first prize from the announced purse of $8.5 million, and the top 30 places in the PGA Tour’s point standings to be eligible for the pot o’gold in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta two weeks from now.
Of Day and McIlroy, McIlroy may have the edge. Day had never even seen the course until his pro-am time on Wednesday afternoon. McIlroy said he remembered every hole. But with almost every top player in the world on hand aside from Stenson, picking a winner is like picking a favorite cloud on a windy day. Wait a minute and there’s another choice.
Around Crooked Stick
The WGA green coat of Gary Planos was on the practice range this week even if Planos, who died earlier this year, was missing for the first time in memory. It was a fitting tribute to the longtime WGA director who caddied at Westmoreland, became an Evans Scholar, and eventually ran the Kapalua resort in Hawaii, where he was also tournament director for the Tournament of Champions. ... The famous shrimp cocktail of St. Elmo’s, the legendary bistro in downtown Indianapolis, is on sale in the food court close to the 18th tee. It’s a sinus-clearing concoction indoors with a libation at hand. Now imagine what it would be like under a broiling sun and high humidity. ... Thursday’s tee times run from 10:03 a.m. to 2:13 p.m. ET, a new threesome off the first tee every 11 minutes. It’s the first one-tee start in the first two rounds in decades. ... McIlroy, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, sure to draw a few people, commence firing at 1:53 p.m. Day starts with U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed at 11:47 a.m.
– Tim Cronin