Golf gets the duel it wanted this week when Rory McIlroy, back in action after an ankle injury, goes head to head with Jordan Spieth, the man with designs on his world No1 spot and a third Major of 2015, at the US PGA Championship – and it’s great news for the game.
It may be just five weeks since Rory ruptured ligaments, ultimately denying him the chance to defend his Open title at St Andrews, but those fearing that he is rushing back too soon and risking further injury should remember he is a very capable man surrounded by the right people. The sight of him running up hills while practising at Whistling Straits over the weekend was also hugely encouraging.
McIlroy may be a little rusty for his US PGA title defence, but on the other hand he will have a freshness that rivals who have been slogging it out on tour for the last few weeks will not. He will also be desperate to do well, having been broken-hearted at missing St Andrews.
Whistling Straits, which I love, looks well suited to the in-form Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, who went very close to winning the US PGA the last time it was held here, in 2010. Rory, like Dustin, was only one shot away from the play-off eventually won by Martin Kaymer that year, so he has pedigree on this course. As for Spieth, he is such an all-rounder it doesn’t seem to matter where he plays.
Some might make Spieth favourite, given his hot streak this year, but I’d argue that he and McIlroy should be joint favourites. If pushed, I’d pick Rory. Why? On the basis that he is the best.
It’s another Irishman who deservedly took the plaudits last week, after Shane Lowry enjoyed the biggest win of his career at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
The 28-year-old did it in style too, finishing with a bogey-free 66, and under severe pressure, with the likes of Bubba breathing down his neck and Justin Rose and Jim Furyk close behind.
Lowry had a great up and down at the 14th hole but the highlights came at 10 and 18, where he recovered from wayward drives by shooting over the pines and claiming magnificent birdies.
I was delighted for Lowry. He’s a breath of fresh air, a lovely kid and he enjoys life. He’s a very natural player, with a rhythmical swing that reminds me of his great countryman Christy O’Connor Snr.
He’s got all the attributes and will take huge belief from that victory. It will stay with him forever, that knowledge that he can beat big players and land big titles, and it will only help.
This was one step short of winning a Major, earned him a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour and propelled him into the FedEx Cup – truly life-changing stuff.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam