It was windier than Aunt Tilly after chili yesterday at PGA National, a day that commanded steady over spectacular from the Honda Classic leader, especially with the Bear Trap ahead and the No. 1 ranking in the world on the line.
The temptation was there for Rory McIlroy, 22, to try shoot the lights out, as he had done with his 66 the day before to send him into yesterday’s final round with a two-shot lead. His only blemish on the scorecard came with a bogey on 12, but he balanced that with a birdie on 13.
Up ahead, somebody used to that No. 1 position pressed McIlroy as Tiger Woods capped off a spectacular 62 with an eagle on 18 to pull within two.
The creator of the Bear Trap said he’d prefer to be in Tiger’s cleat than McIlroy’s. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Jack Nicklaus about who was in control, you couldn’t argue when he pointed out that McIlroy needed to prove he deserves No. 1.
The Tiger test was on, but nothing changed as McIlroy needed some successful scrambles, but got through the Bear Trap with pars and finished it up nicely with a 69, spectacular only because of what came out of it.
McIlroy deserves No. 1. He’s been through several tests, not the least of which was the meltdown at last year’s Masters, only to come back to win the U.S. Open in style.
McIlroy was ordinary in the British Open and PGA Championship, but since the latter event was played, he’s had seven top-five finishes, including a win, on the European Tour, plus last week’s runner-up finish at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
He’s found different ways to win. He turned spotty scrambling at the Accenture into a strength at the Honda and now he’s No. 1 with many predicting a long reign. If that is the case, consistency continues to be essential.
Take a look down the Honda Classic leaderboard. If the Tiger we saw yesterday sticks around, he could become a factor. Woods’ 62 overshadowed the 63 posted by another former No. 1 in Lee Westwood.
Masters champ Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley represent the rising stars, while the man that McIlroy took No. 1 from, Luke Donald, was remarkable in his consistency over the past year. It’s far from a slam dunk that McIlroy will own No. 1.
But despite weather and Woods, he deserves to be there now.
The test continues this week at Doral.
COMING ATTRACTIONS FOR TIGER?
That little nugget about Woods wanting to become a Navy Seal is lightweight compared to what could come in his former swing coach Hank Haney’s new book, The Big Miss, scheduled for release later this month, just before the Masters. It is, however, juicy inside stuff from the Woods camp that normally wouldn’t see the light of day. Woods’ terse exchange with writer Alex Miceli sets the tone for anybody who dares touch this subject once it hits the fan. Trouble is, the growl of the Tiger with the famous glare, doesn’t have the same effect as it once did and editorials that followed turned Woods into a punch line again. A poison pen could seem like poison ivy among the magnolias and azaleas as the spring festival gets underway at Augusta ... It was generally thought that weather conditions softened Congressional when McIlroy won the U.S. Open with an impressive 16-under score last year. That may not be sitting well with organizers feeling they lost their mojo. This year, the Olympic Club will be par 70 and 7,170 yards, 373 yards longer than the last time it hosted the Open in 1998. United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said last week if somebody plays the first six holes at two over, he won’t be losing ground to the field. It sounds ominous, so the natural question now is will the USGA go over the top in repairing its damaged ego? Wind and fog could also be factors.
DAVIS IN DREAMLAND
Davis Love III suggested one good week would allow him to play his way on to the American Ryder Cup team that he’ll serve as captain. That came after Love shot a 64 in the first round of the Honda Classic, but reality set in when he was over par the rest of the way. Love, 47, had a couple of top 10s last year, but missed the cut in nine of 22 events and in his first two tournaments this year. He was 39th in Ryder Cup standings last week ... Former PGA Tour player Dick Zokol has left Sagebrush in Merritt, B.C., and is joining Predator Ridge in Vernon, B.C., as executive director of golf development. The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member will be joined at Predator by ex-LPGA Tour player A.J. Eathorne ... Hamilton’s Alena Sharp seems to be rounding into shape for the start of her 2012 season on the LPGA Tour. Sharp recorded scores of 66-68-73 to record her second win of the year on the Grasshopper Tour last week in Phoenix ... Orangeville’s Brittany Marchand of North Carolina State is a co-winner of the ACC Women’s Golfer of the Month for February. The sophomore recently won an event in Florida. She’s the first NC State player ever to win that award.