Learning from the top young guns of golf
Rory McIlroy
Learning from the top young guns of golf
REAL SPORTS SCENE - Anthony Suntay (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2020 - 12:00am

As the season progresses on the PGA Tour, let me share some of the quotes I got from attending the tour‘s first tournament in Japan late last year, which had the local golfers coming out in droves to watch the world’s best in action.

Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are among the top young guns in the sport now and watching them up close, hearing from them during the event was just inspiring.

They talked about how traveling affects their level of play, their outlook on the game and how the mental aspect of golf is so important in the sport.

PHILIPPINE STAR: You changed your travel schedule in 2019 and it seemed to have helped.

Rory Mcilroy: Yes. I felt like I performed my best all the way through the season for the most part. I haven’t traveled as much this year though as I have done in the past bouncing back and forth across the Atlantic. That’s something I would try to replicate going forward. I will start my season in the US I’m going to play in the Irish Open, which is probably at the end of May. I will go back for that until before The Open Championship. That gives me a solid sort of six months in the US. I think that helped how I performed in 2019.

Do you think a rivalry between two top players, like yourself and Brooks Koepka, is good for the sport?

I think any storyline where it’s competitive at the top is going to be good for golf. It doesn’t have to be between me and Brooks, it could be between Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. It could be between anyone. I think when it is competitive at the top and guys are jostling for that top position, that’s a great thing for the sport. It gets people talking and the interest level up.

I would never want to make this just between two players because I think everyone knows golf is such a fickle sport. One minute you can be on the top of the world and the next minute you’re missing cuts. Just like what happened to me last year. I followed probably my worst performance of the year at the Memorial with a missed cut with winning the Canadian Open by seven shots. Like, how does that turn around in seven days? It’s golf and sometimes you can’t explain it.

I would never want to make it just about two players. I think that’s a little disrespectful to all the other players that are trying to play well and trying to win tournaments. You look at what Justin has done, you look at all the great players that are involved in golf. To make it just about two people is not the right thing to do.

* * *

Justin Thomas

Are you comfortable with where you’re game is at right now?

Justin Thomas: There’s definitely room for improvement. I’m playing really well. I felt like last week was some of the best mentally I’ve been. I was in a great, great place all week. Nothing really phased me or bothered me. I would make a bogey and I would let it go immediately. I would be upset or I may say a couple of things, but I think in the past, I know especially my first couple years on tour, I would kind of let that linger and bother me.

I know a lot of other people didn’t notice that, after I made bogey, I birdied the next hole, which I think says a lot about where my mind was on the golf course.

But I just think I can always improve and I think that’s what’s so fun and frustrating about this game. I’m a perfectionist. I’m always working to get a little bit better on my putting. I know that my chipping and my pitching can get a lot better. My iron play is really good, but I feel like I can hone that and get little things fixed up — driving and three-wood. I always try to get a little bit better. I think that’s what separates the best players in the world.

* * *

Xander Schauffele

What are you concentrating on for 2020?

Xander Schauffele: Personally, just raw emotion. I think if I just would be in contention more, that would be awesome. I don’t even think I’ve held a 54-hole lead. It’s a little bit harsh, but it’s just sort of how I’m judged at certain times by either my dad or people on my team, and it’s true at times.

Look at all these other players. Justin’s already won 11 or 12 times. He’s a bit of an exception, too. There’s a bunch of other guys, though, who have had 54-hole leads who have closed them; my wins are more come-from-behind. That’s sort of where I’m comfortable.

I think in order for me to become an elite player and more of an established name, it would be important for me to sort of play to what I know I can do at certain times versus trying to be the come-from-behind kid. I don’t mind coming from behind, it’s plenty easy and more comfortable than trying to sleep on what I would imagine to be a 54-hole lead. I think that’s sort of like a small goal of mine personally.

This 2020 season, I’ve been knocking on the door on a few majors. That would be massive. But there are certain courses that are big in our game that I’ve played well at, which is really cool for me at this young age. So I know I can! If I’m in a good mental spot and the game’s in a good spot, I should be able to go out and showcase what I can do.

* * *

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @anthonysuntay.

GOLF JUSTIN THOMAS RORY MCLLROY XANDER SCHAUFFELE
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