ABOUT this time of year, with five weeks until the Masters, you expect the world’s best players to be hitting their stride. Instead, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are showing some worrying signs.
McIlroy blew a golden opportunity to claim his first title of the season in a comedy of errors at the Honda Classic on Sunday. He started the day two clear but finished poorly, a double bogey at 16 and then bogey at 17 contributing to a four-over-par 74. McIlroy then almost won it with the shot of his life at 18, but couldn’t hole the 12-foot eagle putt and lost a four-man play-off to American Russell Henley.
It was a hugely disappointing finish for the Northern Irish former world No1, having been so much on top. Who knows how he’ll react, but he is a prolific winner and you learn from every experience. A career in golf is a marathon.
Woods, meanwhile, withdrew during his final round, citing back spasms. That has to be a concern so soon to the first Major of the year. It is the fourth time he has pulled out of an event injured in five years, and that is unusual for someone so physically fit.
The 14-time Major winner now looks a doubt to defend his title at this week’s WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral, another tournament with a stellar field. It was often said that Woods’s swing would cause him back problems later in his career and now, aged 38, it appears that prediction could be coming true.
Happier times for two less celebrated Brits this week, though, with Scotland’s Russell Knox playing superbly to join McIlroy in that play-off in Florida. He has an excellent swing and that should be enough to ensure his PGA Tour card for next season.
England’s Ross Fisher went one place better at the weekend, winning the Tshwane Open in South Africa – his first title since 2010. He and caddie Chris Harmston, who has been on his good friend’s bag since giving up his own playing career, are both based at Wentworth and I’m delighted for them.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam