Players 2020: Rory McIlroy compared Pete Dye courses to drinking beer, and it made perfect sense
PONTE VEDRA BEACH — If you've been lucky (or unlucky) enough to play a golf course designed by Pete Dye, you know it's an unsettling experience. The late, legendary architect knew how to make golfers uncomfortable, including the best players in the world. Just ask Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut in his first three appearances in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Dye's most famous design.
Finally, in his fourth start in 2013, McIlroy made the cut and finished in a tie for eighth. But it was a few years earlier that the Northern Irishman believes he came around on Dye's devilish ways.
"So 2010 Whistling Straits was when I turned a corner. I turned up there, it was the PGA Championship, and I hated it," said McIlroy when asked if Dye's courses were an acquired taste. "Like I really did not like it. I had to tell myself, look, you just need to like it for one week. Just get your head around liking this place for one week and embracing the fact that it's different and the fact that it's visually a little funky and whatever.
"I ended up finishing third that week and one shot out of a playoff, and I think that was when I sort of had turned a corner in terms of not necessarily loving Pete Dye golf courses, because of -- I think he's a wonderful golf course designer, but I never liked how he made you feel on the golf course in terms of hiding things and angles, and it makes you a little bit uncomfortable, which is obviously his plan. He's a wonderful designer of golf courses, but that was the week where I had to embrace what Pete tried to put into his golf courses."
Two years later, McIlroy really embraced the master architect when he won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. It was his second major title, and it was highlighted by a final-round 66 that earned him an eight-stroke victory.
A month later, McIlroy conquered another Dye design, Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana, which hosted the 2012 BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup Playoff event. Last year, he picked up his third win on a Dye course at Sawgrass, where he'll be defending his title this week. Not only has he grown to love them, it seems like he can't get enough. In that sense, Dye's courses are kind of like...
We'll let Rory take it from here.
"Yeah, going on from there [Whistling Straits], winning at Kiawah, winning at Crooked Stick, winning here, I've started to quite like them. But as you said, an acquired taste. They're like beer when you're younger. You sort of don't like it but then you think it's cool to drink it and then you sort of acquire a taste for it."
Are we talking Milwaukee's Best, Bud Light or Stella Artois? We all know Seth Raynor courses are locally-brewed IPAs (little joke for golf architecture Twitter), so maybe we'll give Dye the Guinness designation.
McIlroy's comparison makes almost too much sense. That very first sip of beer we've all had seems gross, but eventually you learn to stomach it and at a certain point it even tastes good. That's the the Pete Dye course experience. Well said, Rory, well said.