Beware of the raging bull

Mark McGowan

Jon Rahm (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve already reached the final men’s major of the year, but reach it we have. As glad as I am that the PGA Championship fills the void between the Masters and the U.S. Open in May, by the time August is on the horizon the decision to re-jig the major schedule seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that didn’t exist, but that’s a debate for another day.

The last major is indeed here, and two names dominate the narrative: Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler. And with good reason, to be fair. The former will always be a big part of major conversation regardless of form, part due to the fact that he always seems on the cusp of winning that elusive fifth title, and part due to his stature within the game as the undoubted shining light of the post-Tiger (can we say that yet?) era.

Rory, of course, has just won the Scottish Open, and despite The Renaissance Club being a ‘linksy,’ rather than ‘pure links’ track, the weather on Sunday in particular was as ‘pure links’ as you can get. The shot making down the stretch demonstrated that, though he’s typically not been a great wind player, he’s as sweet a ball striker as we’ve ever seen and has that extra gear that few if any of his contemporaries can engage.


Scheffler, as has been well publicised, has yet to finish outside the top 12 this year, has been making mincemeat of golf courses tee-to-green, and been putting like 12-handicap. Not literally, of course, but relative to the game’s elites, his flatstick work has been really, really poor. But even with his putting woes, that Sunday rolls around and he’s not in the first dozen or so names on the leaderboard seems unfathomable.

Scottie doesn’t have to putt like Cameron Smith did last year to win the Open Championship, if his ball-striking retains the incredibly lofty standards he’s set, he only needs to putt marginally better than he has in recent weeks and if he putts well, he could win by a distance.

But it’s not that long ago that Scheffler and McIlroy dominated the narrative as the season’s first major rolled around. Rory was coming off a third-place finish at the WGC Matchplay, beating Scheffler in the third-place playoff, and Scottie had won the Players Championship in his previous start. Brooks Koepka was talked about, as was Cam Smith, and with good reason, but there was one player who deserved considerably more attention and that man was Jon Rahm.

And we all know what happened at Augusta.

There’s a similar feeling coming into the last major of the year. Yes, Rahm’s hot streak that saw him win three times in five starts had cooled a little by the time he arrived at The Masters and though he’s not won since, he’s only made six starts, five of which were majors or PGA Tour designated events.

With wins at Portstewart and Lahinch, a third-place finish at Royal St. Georges, fourth at Ballyliffin and 11th at Portrush, Rahm is a player who feels really at home on links courses, is a proven big-game hunter, and somehow, despite six wins in 12 months, arrives at Hoylake somewhat under the radar.

Despite a reputation for a hot temperament, Rahm’s outbursts have rarely had a negative impact on his scoring. Everybody feels a little pissed-off when they hit a particularly bad shot – and everybody hits them from time to time – Rahm just displays his frustrations a little more openly than most.

Playing alongside McIlroy on days one and two, Rahm will be chomping at the bit to remind everyone that he’s been the most successful player in the world this year and why talk of the ‘big two’ is disrespectful at best and downright foolhardy at worst.

Extra motivation is not something that’s necessarily needed in major championships, but the man from the Basque country may well feel he’s a point to prove as he seeks to end his major season the way he started it.

Beware of the raging bull.

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