Thursday, 21 January 2016

Spieth and McIlroy in Abu Dhabi

I stayed up all night, and watched with interest as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy played together for the first time this year.  No disrespect to Rickie Fowler, who rounded out the threesome, but they were the guys I was most interested in watching.  I had the sense that Rory would be wanting to make a statement; and he wasted no time in doing so by birdieing the first two holes.  I was really expecting to see some fireworks, but, in my mind at least, the round was a bit of a letdown.

Neither player looked particularly fired up.  It was all a very friendly contest as it always is with these guys.  And that is as it should be.   But Spieth seemed unusually quiet, even after hitting some rather awful shots.  There didn't seem to be as much talk between he and his caddie. There wasn't the same obvious level of frustration over shots that didn't come off.  He just didn't appear to be as engaged as he usually is.

It was like a couple of fighters just feeling eachother out in the first round.  Rory drove the ball majestically most of the day, making both Spieth and Fowler look very average in that department.  In fact, Rory's 66 looked to be about as high a score as he could have shot on the day, and he looked to be in a different league than his two playing partners.  He likely feels that he got very little out of his round, as good as it was, and is somewhat disappointed; if indeed you can ever be disappointed with a 66.

Meanwhile, Spieth looked decidedly mediocre, missing putts, fatting wedge shots, and pitches, driving it in the thick rough; and yet, at the day's end, he birdies the last hole--the hardest hole on the course--while McIlroy lips out, and somehow posts 68.  He thereby keeps McIlroy and the leaders in sight.  No doubt his lunch will taste pretty good with that birdie on the last hole, even if there was the timing violation assessed to him by John Paramor--which is another story.  This seems to be what Spieth is able to do.  He somehow cobbles together a score despite not having his best stuff, and stays in touch.  He just refuses to go away.

Rory was definitely the man today--at least in his threesome.  He hit shots that were simply beyond Spieth's capability.  He will always be able to hit shots that Spieth simply can't hit.  And yet, somehow, it's still game on.  There are only two shots between them, and one can't help thinking that tomorrow will be another day and Spieth will find a way to claw his way back into contention.  As for Rory, if he could only learn to grind out a score like Spieth--with his power--forget about it.  It would be all over but the crying.

Today's round just reinforces what I keep thinking.  This kid Spieth perhaps shouldn't be the best player in the game.  When you watch them hit it--especially with the driver--you tend to think Jordan shouldn't really be in Rory's league.  Sure, Jordan hit some lovely iron shots.  But, let's face it, that was one pretty ugly 68.  I guess young Mr. Spieth is a perfect example of why they say there are no pictures on the scorecard.  In fact, he's a good example of why they say you drive for show and putt for dough, although he usually drives it very efficiently.  And he's a good example of why they say golf is about turning three shots into two.   Let's face it; he's just a good example.  End of story.

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