They Said It
PGA Championship 2023: Rory’s perspective, Rahm cracks the books and everything else you may have missed from Tuesday’s pressers
Ahh, Tuesday of a major championship week. The day of talking, questioning and take-having. I actually heard someone on Golf Channel today say that players might want to take Oak Hill's "mowing patterns" of the fairways into account off-the-tee this week. True story.
And yet, here we all are. Watching, listening, creating narratives. We can't get enough of it. It's part of the charm of major championship weeks, a nice little Tuesday tradition four times a year. Unfortunately, since you're not complete sickos like us, you may have missed some of the best nuggets and tidbits from a chatty Tuesday at Oak Hill. We've compiled some of our favorites below, superlative style.
Best/Most concerning perspective: Rory McIlroy
The consensus takeaway from Rory McIlroy's Tuesday presser was that he wasn't his usual candid self, specifically on matters regarding LIV. By the sound of it, he's taking a "no comment" approach going forward, which is completely reasonable. Everything he says about the Saudi-backed tour gets spun and twisted into a headline and he's clearly over it. That wasn't the only thing he was cagey about, either. When asked about what he likes to do when he gets away from golf, McIlroy, after a long pause, said "I don't know, actually. I don't know."
Normally, McIlroy might give you the whole rundown of his most recent week off. What he ate, what he watched, how many diapers he changed, etc. But after his latest major disappointment at the Masters, there was a noticeable switch on Tuesday with the media. Of course, his inclination will always be to give us more, and he did still manage to do that in a typically candid, yet somewhat concerning quote about how he defines success and failure at this point in his career (shoutout to our own Joel Beall, who is on site and asked the question that yielded this answer).
"Like if I don't win another tournament for the rest of my career, I still see my career as a success," McIlroy said. "I still stand up here as a successful person in my eyes. That's what defines that."
Beautifully said, as always. Not to mention the fact it's 100 correct and a totally normal thing to think. He's a four-time major champ, a 23-time winner on the PGA Tour and a 15-time winner on the DP World Tour, a two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year, a four-time Vardon Trophy winner, a member of four victorious Ryder Cup teams, and on and on it goes. If he retired before his tee time Thursday, the Hall of Fame would be his next stop and he'd still be recognized as a top-20 golfer ever and arguably one of the faces of the sport for the rest of time. If that's not a rousing "success," we're not sure what is.
But, if I could put my guy-typing-behind-a-screen-critiques-a-legend cap on for just one second, I couldn't help think that Rory is right .... but does he have to say it out loud? Doesn't he want more? Doesn't he want to have a legendary second half of his career? Doesn't he want to keep chasing history? The answers to those questions are obviously yes, of course he does, but when he vocalizes that he'd be fine with his career to this point it just makes you feel like there isn't much killer instinct there. Maybe it was never there, maybe the early part of his career was just a happy-go-lucky guy going on a dominant run, and maybe that same guy could do it again in his late 30s and 40s. This is some peak Tuesday of PGA week discussion right here, isn't it?
Most studious: Jon Rahm
On the other end of the spectrum we have Jon Rahm, a killer in every sense of the word who has made it known he's chasing history, he's chasing majors, he's building a legacy. To help him in that quest, it sounds like the Spaniard, much like all of us, likes to do a little bit of film study before a big week like this one. He had made mention during his presser that he went back to watch replays of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, and he was later asked if that's something he normally does on major weeks. Damn straight it is.
"I do it pretty much for every major," Rahm said. "I just like it. Even if it's not major season I'm doing it at home. I've seen on social media about every Sunday round you can find about Augusta and most majors. For the most part, most majors would do like a one-hour documentary of the entire tournament. You'll see a lot of—it's not research. I just like it. It's just fun. I'm a golf fan, as well. I'm a fan of all those players out there as well. It's enjoyable."
Like a true student of the game, Rahm went on to explain that watching players attack the 2013 version of Oak Hill's renovated East Course won't have much relevance this week. But he still was able to make a few mental notes about how to handle yourself down the stretch of a major championship, not that he didn't know how to do that already.
"The one thing I did see from [Jason] Dufner is when he needed to, he relied on his wedges quite a bit," Rahm said of the 2013 PGA champion. "I think in the final round, I think it was 9 or 8, hit it in the trees, chipped out, gave himself a 10-footer, made the putt, and kept the round going, right?
"I think he laid up on 14 and trusted his wedges. He gave himself numbers, and even on that final round he had about three or four tap-ins for birdie. That usually doesn't happen.
"Just be determined, have discipline," he added. "What Jack did ... where was it? In Baltusrol [at the 1967 U.S. Open], right? How he said every time he went in the rough he was going to lay up, and on 18 he laid up, hit the 1-iron, and then made birdie. There's many ways to make a 4 or 3 or 5. You don't always have to go at it all the time. I think there's always a lesson to learn on every one."
Rahm has enough talent and work ethic to completely shut his brain off and never even think about golf when his work days are over and still be successful, and yet he's still in the lab, fanboying out and taking notes while watching old majors in his spare time. A total addict. We respect it.
Most fair complaint: Luke Donald
Major weeks, particularly ones like this one where the course should be a proper test, are ripe for complaining. Most of the time you just roll your eyes and chalk it up to tour pros who have it way to good on the PGA Tour shrinking the second they face some adversity. But, I gotta say, Luke Donald seems to have a point about Oak Hill's par 3s, two of which will play over 230 yards this week.
"I think it's a good test," Donald said. "A couple of the par 3s are a little bit obnoxiously long for some of the size of the greens, but again, that's a major championship test."
As an already short hitter who is getting shorter with age, this topic hits a little close to home for the European Ryder Cup captain. But even for the longer hitters, 230- and 245-yard par 3s are a little obscene (Matt Fitzpatrick couldn't help but laugh at the third hole on Monday). Par 3s do not have to be over 220 to challenge the world's best (see: 11th hole at Brookline at last year's U.S. Open).
Most old young guy: Tony Finau
Maddie Meyer/PGA of America
Everything from the way Tony Finau speaks to the way he dresses to the way he carries himself would indicate that he's very "hip." He's on TikTok. He's trendy. He gets it. However, let's not forget this is a man with five children, and a man with five children, even at the young age of 33, is going to pick up some very dad tendencies. This quote about doing "the griddy" is very much a dad quote.
"My son taught me the Griddy," said Finau when asked about his TikTok dancing. "Yeah, not the Dougie, but he taught me the Griddy. My oldest boy is into all the new trends, and he reminds me how old I am with all the new stuff. I've got to follow him with all these new trends."
Maybe Finau is actually an old soul, and all his TikTok-ing and wardrobe domination is the work of his wife and children? Considering he's got to focus on playing golf, that's entirely plausible.
Most realistic: Braden Shattuck
For those scratching their heads, Shattuck is a PGA pro who gained entry into this year's field via his victory at the 2023 PGA Professional Championship in New Mexico earlier this month. Rounds of 70, 71, 68 and 70 earned him a one-stroke victory and $60,000, a strong first-place check for a club pro from Rolling Green Golf Club in Pennsylvania. The dude definitely has some game.
Enough game to win this week? Highly unlikely, but he wouldn't be the first club pro to make a storybook run in this event, which is part of the PGA's charm. Shattuck's expectations are as realistic as they come.
"My expectations would be to make the cut this week," said Shattuck, wno suffered devastating back injuries in a car accident that left him unable to play for two years. "I don't think it's reasonable to think I can win the golf tournament and beat the best players in the world, but I think I can definitely make the cut this week."
That's a fine goal to have as a club pro this week—get to the weekend and the rest is gravy. Perhaps he could even shoot for a 37th place finish, which would make him more money than his PGA Professional Championship victory did. As for nerves, which Shattuck said he doesn't really experience on the course when he won in New Mexico, well, there's a first time for everything.
"I think we're all going to find out the answer to that one at the same time," Shattuck said.
Best self-own: Cameron Young
In addition to a number of near misses at wins in regular PGA Tour events, Cam Young has already racked up three close calls in majors, and two of them came during his rookie season. Still no wins, though, a fact he's very aware of. As Young mentioned Tuesday, he's just one scorching-hot Sunday away from crossing the finish line. That's the final piece.
Then he realized in real time that sometimes that's not even enough when you're going up against the best players on the planet.
"I'm just trying to keep giving myself those opportunities," Young said. "I've said it a bunch of times; one of these times I'll shoot 5-under on the back and it'll be good enough, and I did it at the British Open and I still lost."
Good news is, a five under back nine this Sunday should almost certainly do the trick at Oak Hill, provided he's somewhere near the lead. Considering his performances in the last four majors, that's becoming the norm for Young.
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