While most of the U.S. was rolling out of bed and nursing their Sunday morning hangovers, Rory McIlroy was putting the finishing touches on a four win season that was capped off with the Race to Dubai title. Yes, Rory winning the Race to Dubai looks shockingly similar to Baylor running through a non-conference schedule, as he needed just six non-co-sanctioned European Tour events, and only two on the actual continent of Europe. While the poor man’s version of the already comical FedExCup is hardly the best barometer for accomplishment, nor necessarily a great predictor of what is to come, it’s what Rory said immediately after claiming the title that got me hyped for the near future of the sport. For Rory, 2015 will be defined by “what could have been,” and no one is more aware of that than Rory himself. Ian Carter reported the following quotes from the Ulsterman (h/t @GeoffShack):
“I had a big lead in the world rankings and you see Jordan and Jason play the way they did. Fields are so deep, you can’t let up at all.
“Tagging along with that, you know, this is my time to capitalise on my career. The next 10, 15 years is my time.
“I really can’t be doing silly things like playing football in the middle of the season to jeopardise even six months of my career. It’s a big chunk where I could make some hay and win a major or two.
“I won’t be making those mistakes again next year.”
I was (very quietly) critical of Rory risking his health playing soccer with his friends this summer, and it’s refreshing to hear that Rory himself now shares that same sentiment. I get the whole deal about athletes having their own lives, but I firmly believe that players should not be unnecessarily putting their bodies in harm’s way during the middle of major season. Rory was going to win The Open. I truly believe that. I think he would have shot 20 under. But instead we literally got a piece of corn in the Claret Jug, and I still haven’t forgiven Rory for that.
I was already absolutely hyped for 2016, and I hate overreacting to words said to a group of reporters, but the quotes above have me ready to run through a wall. A fiery and motivated Rory adding to the mix of the emergence of Jason Day and Jordan Spieth? Justin Thomas’ breakout campaign? Brooks Koepka? Dustin Johnson? Rickie Fowler? Patrick Rodgers? I can’t even name all of the guys that I’m pumped about without feeling like I’m leaving out a class of ten more of them.
We’re spoiled. Remember back in the day when you would try to download a song from Napster or Limewire, and you would have to leave it on overnight and just hope that you would have a bootlegged version of a song by morning? These days, if I can stream a song within five seconds, I’m chasing down an IT guy. Now I’m the same way with golf. A story like G-Mac returning to the winner’s circle barely registers as a blip on the radar because we’ve become so used to seeing awesome things week in and week out that we become numb to it, to a certain extent.
The logs and the brush had already been arranged in a tidy circle. Rory just poured gas over the wood, and now the 2016 season is ready to be set ablaze into the greatest fire the North has ever seen. In the second half of 2014, it became clear that a new era of golf was coming. In 2015, young golf fans were treated to the best (non-Tiger) season that we’ve ever seen. In 2016, the rest of the sports world is going to start noticing. Came. Saw. Conquered. I still have no idea what “lit” means, but this season is going to be lit. (Oh, and it’s a Ryder Cup year!)
Typically, I would roll my eyes at a generalization of “The Big Three,” but the distance these guys have put between themselves and the Fraudulent Floridian looks a lot like the Protracer on one of Rory’s drives.
The 2015-2016 reacharound season is already off to a fiery start, and I’m expected to start my bitching process about Ryder Cup qualifying in this space, aren’t I?
If fall portion of PGA Tour season counted toward Ryder Cup, Kisner would be 3rd instead of 6th. Justin Thomas would be 6th instead of 33rd.
— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) November 23, 2015
Good run-down of Patrick Reed's fall (https://t.co/IsFyyetXjq) on the European Tour. Added another top 10 this weekend.
— Jake Nichols (@jalnichols) November 23, 2015
Worst part? He earned zero Ryder Cup for his T3, 2, T10 finishes. Good chance this will turn into a @NoLayingUp rant next September.
— Jake Nichols (@jalnichols) November 23, 2015
If you’re expecting a rant, I think I’ll save it for next September. For now, I’m going to give Davis Love III the benefit of the doubt, and just assume that he’s smart enough to take Justin Thomas as a captain’s pick, if he somehow does not make it on points. That being said, there really is no point in analyzing the Ryder Cup qualification standings at this point, as it’s really only counting the 2015 majors (1 point per $1,000 earned), WGC’s and Players Championship events (1 point per $2,000 earned). For 2016, regular events will be granted 1 point per $1,000 earned, and majors will grant 2 points per $1,000 earned.
With the way these fall events played out, of course I’d rather have Justin Thomas up near the top of the standings. But at the same time, do we really think the results of these events are key indicators of players that should be on the Ryder Cup team? Jimmy Walker has played on to the last two Ryder and Presidents Cup teams with hot falls/winters, and ridden that out into automatic qualification. He’s 2-4-3 in those competitions. Does a win in November really mean that you’re going to be ready to roll at Hazeltine next September?
That being said, if I’m looking at the current lineup (Spieth, DJ, ZJ, Fowler, Phil, Kisner, Bubba, Koepka) and my four captain’s picks as of today (Thomas, Reed, Na, Horschel), I’m liking our chances against anything the Euros are able to put together.
(Disclaimer: I fully reserve the right to bitch on the qualification system if Thomas somehow doesn’t make the team.)