Gary Van Sickle: McIlroy can fix his swing problem in a few range sessions

Rory McIlroy
Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated
Rory McIlroy should be able to recover his form in time for Doral, whether he can make a slew of birdies in another story.
I don’t have a toothache but I do have an annoying fingernail, a small razor cut and generally dry skin.
I am so outta here.

Check that—upon further review, I will gamely solider on in the interest of journalism and also because I’d like to stay gainfully employed. (Ouch! I just got a static electric shock from my stapler. This is bordering on intolerable.)

Let’s dispatch Rory McIlroy and his $250 million endorsement. Unfortunately, those two items are inseparable for the rest of this year, which is a super-sized albatross for a player who’s off his game at the moment.

Rory walked off on his ninth hole Friday at the Honda Classic, drawing some criticism. He was seven over par through eight holes and that figure was likely to escalate after he hit his approach into the lake at the ninth. Well, he was playing rubbish and he was going to miss the cut, anyway. It’s bad form and nobody likes a quitter, especially when he later comes up with a story about aching wisdom teeth that he hadn’t previously mentioned, but it happens. Approximately 38 more of those and Rory ties John Daly.

At least Rory admitted later that he made a mistake.

There’s nothing wrong with Rory (or his equipment) that a small swing fix can’t correct. Rory is starting his takeaway by picking the club straight up and out, outside his intended swing path. (That’ll be $200, please. I take checks or PayPal.) Rory ought to be able to straighten that out in a few range sessions and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him somewhat back in form this week at Doral. Now whether he can adjust to the flight of his new irons and his new ball enough to make a slew of birdies, that’s another story. But Step 1 in Rory’s world right now is to get his swing back in order. Step 2 is adjusting to his new clubs and ball. The Honda was a jump in the wrong direction for him but on the panic scale, I’d put him only at DefCon 4, ticked up only slightly from DefCon 5, the base line. Nothing to worry about yet. Nothing to see here people—move along, please.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods was a regular Johnny Nikeseed the way he left a trail of lost little white seeds around PGA National for four days. Any reason for concern there? Duh, no. He just won at Torrey Pines last month. PGA National played difficult with cool, windy conditions on the weekend and nobody wins every week. Tiger is fine and, frankly, he’s probably my favorite to win next month’s Masters. What, you were thinking Russell Henley?

The biggest thing to come out of the Honda Classic was tournament flag-bearer Jack Nicklaus, who dispensed some interesting comments while sitting in on the NBC telecast for Sunday’s final round. As a sportsman, he basically assumes Tiger is going to surpass his major-championship record even though Johnny Miller tried to get him to say something sexier.

Nicklaus did reflect mainstream opinion when pressed for his thoughts on the proposed anchored-putting ban. Jack said that the game has always been played by one set of rules (I guess he forgot about the modified U-grooves rule that means we’re enjoying bifurcated rules already until 2024, when amateurs will have to give up their square-grooved clubs) and that’s the way it should be.

I think Jack speaks for a lot of players and traditionalists. That’s why the hottest seat in town is going to belong to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. You probably heard Finchem voice the Tour’s opposition to the proposed ban during the match-play telecast.

Ah, but opposing the ban and defying it are two different things. At no time has Finchem said the Tour would not follow the ban if it is imposed. Maybe the Tour will, maybe it won’t. Maybe Finchem and the Tour policy board don’t even know yet.

But here’s what is going to happen: The USGA and R&A will go ahead with their proposed ban against anchored putting. You didn’t think this 90-day discussion period really meant anything, did you? The next time the R&A listens to anyone will be the first time.

So anchored putting will be banned. Then we’ll see whether Finchem and the tour were merely bluffing.
One possible scenario would be the tour and the PGA of America allowing anchored putting in their events. So long putters could be used in the PGA Championship and the Players but not in the U.S. Open or British Open and probably not the Masters, which will likely side with the game’s governing bodies. That would mean three majors with no anchored putting, one major (the PGA) with anchored putting.

That could be confusing. But as Nicklaus pointed out, he used to switch to a smaller ball in Britain and he used to switch clubs when he played there and in Australia. The game has seen bigger issues before and lived to tell about it.

It’s a reminder that Jack’s comments rang true for the most part but upon closer analysis, really don’t. The game hasn’t always been played under one set of rules as he said—his comments on the small British ball, for example, are a good reminder.

The USGA opted for a slightly bigger golf ball in the 1930s—1.68 inches in diameter versus the British standard of 1.62. Americans played the bigger ball, Brits played the smaller one. The so-called “American ball” was put into play in the 1974 British Open for the first time but the smaller British ball wasn’t officially banished until 1990. So that’s about six decades of bifurcation and using different sized balls.  Factoring in the current grooves rule (which has 11 years to go before being unified) that means we’ve had bifurcation for a vast majority of the past 100 years. So bifurcation isn’t much of an argument against striking down the anchored putting ban.

The USGA likes to keep things traditional. As near as I can tell, bifurcation is traditional. Funny how the USGA never mentions that, though.
 
 
The short game:
Who knows what the NBC crew was listening to when Erik Compton went for the 18th green in two and watched his shot slice into the water. Moments after he hit the shot, NBC’s mikes picked up someone—either Compton or his caddie—moaning about a “mudball” that caused the shot, clearly audible to viewers at home. The announcers missed it, however, and Johnny Miller mused that Compton must’ve “overcooked” the shot… Former UCLA star Patrick Cantlay, who leads the PGA Tour this year in sponsor’s exemptions with four, won a Web.com Tour event in Colombia over the weekend. That poses a dilemma: Keep chasing PGA Tour sponsor invites or stick on the Web.com, where he already has a head start on finishing among the top 25 and earning his 2014 PGA Tour card by that route? I’d go for the latter, which still leaves room for a few more PGA Tour appearances… The Golf Boys have a new song/video out. Surprisingly, it’s not a remake of “Mandy".
 
The Van Cynical Mailbag
(Send your Mailbag question to my Twitter account on any given Monday)
 
Who’s your pick for Doral this week?—Bruce in Utah via email
The real winner will be Donald Trump, Doral’s new owner. He will score lots of airtime (read: free ads for Doral) and be as entertaining as ever. I’m looking forward to the day when he gives the Doral Blue Monster a facelift on the order of Joan Rivers.
 
How’s that new Olympic golf course coming in Brazil?—Warren, Atlanta, via email
It’s not. They’re still squabbling over who actually owns the land. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The whole mess has a weird Fiscal Cliff feel to it.
 
What’s your position on slow play?—Danielle, via email
Is that a trick question? I’m against it, especially if it’s going on in the group ahead of me. I have two solutions. For recreational golf, tasers. For the PGA Tour, a shot clock. It’s the only objective way (versus subjective) to speed up Tour pros. Not to be too controversial or anything, but I’m also against pollution.
 
 
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