Rory, You're Wrong
I don’t usually write about what tour players say, because I typically don’t pay that much attention. But this month’s flap involving Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus and the short game is one I just couldn’t leave alone. In case you missed it, in an interview in Tucson, Rory McIlroy expressed his notion that the short game wasn’t all that important...that it was the long game that won tournaments on the PGA Tour. Then Jack Nicklaus chimed in that he is the one that told him so in the first place. Jack said that if he could hit 15 greens a round, a couple of par fives in two and "make all my putts under 10 feet", he didn’t need a good short game.
Well, Rory, first of all, it’s a little early in your PGA career to compare yourself to the way Jack Nicklaus played the game. Your ball striking, course management, clutch putting and sheer will to win has a long way to go before anyone will ever mutter "McIlroy" and "Nicklaus" in the same sentence. Not to slight your raw, youthful talent in any way, because you obviously have a ton of it, but Jack Nicklaus, much like Ben Hogan, played the game like no one had ever seen before. Other than maybe Tiger, no modern player has even approached their mastery over the golf ball.
To reach the goal Nicklaus told you about, your personal stats have to get a helluva lot better. Your GIR percentage is barely over 60%, 165th among your tour peers, whereas Jack was talking about 15 greens a round and a couple of par fives in two. That’s going to require a serious commitment improving your ball striking accuracy 40-50% to get anywhere close to that. And just a tip...you’re probably not going to do it if you keep missing half your fairways with the driver, especially since your GIR percentage from fairway bunkers is less than 15%.
And Rory, please remember that Jack was talking about making "all your 10 footers", while you are trailing a hundred players in putting. Hmmmmmm.
If you don’t think the short game wins golf tournaments, then you just haven’t spent enough time watching this game, and how the other best players achieved their places in history. Will any golf fan forget Tom Watson’s chip-in at Pebble Beach to win the U.S. Open? Or the short game wizardry of Seve Ballesteros? How about Tom Kite’s brilliant career, and his reputation as one of the most precise wedge players ever? Gary Player’s bunker play was legendary, and many majors were won with at least a few outstanding saves to keep up the momentum or change the course of a round.
I understand you’re a young guy, Rory, and much of that happened when you were in diapers or before you were born, but there’s a couple of guys out there still who aren’t too shabby around the greens. Visit with Phil or Tiger when you have the chance and see if they concur with your assessment about the short game, OK? And is there a more re-played shot in modern golf than Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th at the Masters?
Oh, and if you get to have another sit-down with Mr. Nicklaus, ask him about the chipping lesson he got before that 1986 Masters, where son Jackie passed on the short game wisdom shared with him by Chi Chi Rodriguez. And about how he said his short game was always his weakness, that if he had spent time on it, he would have won many more majors and tournaments. He DID say that, multiple times. I think Jack will level with you about how important the short game really is to top-level golf.
Of course, this is just my opinion. And I might stir up a hornet’s nest here today, but heck, that’s what writing a blog is all about sometimes, right? What do you guys think?
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I have to agree with the wedge guy. There is no way a touring profession can become great player without a better than average short game.
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