Golf

Monday Leaderboard: Rory’s ready for the PGA Championship

Monday Leaderboard: Rory’s ready for the PGA Championship

Welcome to the Monday Leaderboard, where we run down the weekend’s top stories in the wonderful world of golf. Grab an Arnold Palmer, pull up a chair, and get fired up for the season’s second major …

If Rory McIlroy plays the PGA Championship the way he played the final 11 on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship, nobody’s beating him. Not Scottie Scheffler, not 2000 Tiger Woods, not the ghost of Arnold Palmer. McIlroy dialed in like we’ve rarely seen; down two strokes to Xander Schauffele after seven holes, he throttled up and gained eight strokes in eight holes on Schauffele.

That’s GOAT-level playmaking right there, and McIlroy is now tied for 22nd all-time in PGA Tour victories. Not bad for a guy who spent the first half of the week trying to sort out whether the Tour’s policymakers even wanted him around or not.

McIlroy now heads back to Valhalla, the site of his last major win, all the way back in 2014. If you’d told someone back then that McIlroy would still be stuck on four majors all this time later, they’d assume he got bored with golf and turned pro in soccer or something. But McIlroy has been in the mix every year since then; he has at least two top-10s in majors in every year but one (2021) since 2014.

We’d like to say he looks as ready to win as ever, but this isn’t the first time he’s rolled into a major on a hot streak. He’s been one of the favorites at every single one of the 35 majors since that PGA Championship, and yet he hasn’t been able to close the deal. Maybe he will this year, maybe not, but at the very least, he’s got a hell of a running start.

We’re well past the point of being surprised at the twists and turns golf now takes, but still … “Anthony Kim and Brandel Chamblee fight about Saudi investment in pro golf in 2024” is one hell of a weird sentence. And yet it’s totally fitting, given that LIV Golf has irrevocably changed the golf world. Chamblee has been a frequent, blistering critic of LIV and its Saudi backers, but even he has conceded that the time is right for compromise, not continued conflict. Apparently in response, Kim unleashed a flamethrower of a post on X, writing in part, “ur such a [expletive] 4 beating on ur chest & basically saying never retreat & hypocritically retreat.”

Chamblee replied, in part, “It’s the sad reality of you and your brethren on the LIV tour willingly dealing with a murderous dictator for profit so that he can hide his atrocities, that golf has had to try to figure out how to mitigate the influence of MBS, PIF and LIV in the otherwise philanthropical and merit based world of professional golf.” The beat goes on, and not a single mind was changed.

So it turns out that while winning five tournaments in a row is within Nelly Korda’s grasp, winning six was just a bit too much to ask. Korda struggled to a third-round 73 in the Cognizant Founders Cup that left her 11 strokes off the lead, and that was too much for even Korda to overcome. She would finish at T7, 17 strokes behind winner Rose Zhang.

Still, Korda put together one of the finest runs in golf history, and the only real shame is that it didn’t do a whole lot to raise the profile of women’s golf in general or Korda herself in particular. The reasons for this are many and varied, but start with the fact that most of the Cognizant either wasn’t broadcast at all or was on premium, a la carte channels like Peacock and ESPN+. As Caitlin Clark showed, a national appetite for women’s sports is out there, but potential fans have to be able to easily see the actual sports when they’re taking place. Korda is doing her part; it’s up to the rest of the golf infrastructure to step up to her level.

Sixteen-year-old Blades Brown finished T26 at the Myrtle Beach Classic. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

When you tee it up with a name like “Blades Brown,” you’d better bring some game, and 16-year-old Blades Brown — yes, that’s his real name — is doing exactly that. The latest teen to hit the PGA Tour made the cut at this week’s Myrtle Beach Classic. Brown would go on to card three straight rounds in the 60s and finish T26, -10 for the week. (Chris Gotterup’s winning score of -22 was good enough to get him a last-second invitation to the PGA Championship. Nice!)

Brown signed plenty of autographs, but admitted that he wanted to get a few of his own. "Shoot, I wanted one of Joel Dahmen just because I've seen him on Netflix,” Brown said, “but Jack, my caddie, was like, 'Bro, you don't need these guys' signatures, just have them as friends.’”

Somewhere out there, there’s a golf fan who is completely enraptured by the boardroom drama that’s unfolding behind the scenes as the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund do the halting awkward dance of negotiating golf’s future. This fan salivates at words like “committee,” quivers at the idea of memos and agendas. This fan loves the bureaucratic do-si-do of players and executives alike forming yet another board to plot out negotiations for a framework agreement that’s already almost five months past deadline.

Put simply: this (probably hypothetical) fan is a fool. The rest of us are fed up with the 50-car pileup that is golf’s off-course drama. To the principals involved, it must feel like Game of Thrones-level drama as they plot the sport’s future. From the outside, it sure looks like everybody’s making sure they get theirs before satisfying anyone else … including fans. Good thing we’ve got a major this week to put the focus back on the course.

Usually we reserve this space for the absurdities of golf — like, say, Schauffele’s ridiculous drop saga on Thursday — but today, let’s admire the beauty of the game. Check out the northern lights as they shone over St. Andrews on Friday night:

Bright enough to play by. Magnificent.

Swing away and roll ‘em true this week, friends, and we’ll see you back here next Monday!

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