Ever since that fateful night in November 2009, the golf world has been zeroed in on two questions. Will Tiger Woods ever be the same, and if not, can anyone take his throne? To be clear, the question was not, and is not, who is the next Tiger? The answer to that question is there is no next Tiger. Or at least there can be no "next Tiger" until the sport hits a major prolonged downturn and a savior comes along that captivates the masses. There simply is no golfer who has that power now -- but there is one who can take the throne.
Rory McIlroy has all the necessary ingredients to dominate the sport, but there's one thing that we still don't know about Rory, and that's his mental toughness. Yes, we've seen Rory come back after a crushing disappointment to win, and we've seen him win a major while under the radar, but what we haven't seen yet is if he can win a major as the heavy favorite -- and make no mistake, Rory is a heavy favorite to win the PGA Championship this week at Valhalla. What separates the good from the great is the space between their ears. It's the No. 1 reason Tiger Woods dominated so long, and it's also partly why he's struggling now.
Does Rory have the mental ability to not only dominate within a given week but to also dominate for months and years at a time? We just might find out this week and finally get an answer to at least one of our burning questions.
This week: The PGA Championship - Valhalla Golf Club - Louisville
Last Year: Jason Dufner shot a final-round 71 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Jim Furyk.
PLAYERS TO CONSIDER
The way Rory is playing, there's only one thing that can stop him -- himself. Seriously. There are some really talented players on the PGA Tour playing at a high-level, but none of that matters when McIlroy is locked in, which he is now.
It would be typical Phil to lay in the weeds all year, then suddenly pop up at a major and steal a victory. He seems to perform better when the spotlight is elsewhere, and considering the attention that McIlroy is garnering, there aren't that many people talking about Phil. Maybe they should be, though, as he was locked in last week at the WGC Bridgestone.
With most of the attention elsewhere this week, this might be the perfect time for Scott to jump back in and lay claim to the title of best golfer in the world. Scott certainly has the talent, but to be considered in that realm, he'll need to start accumulating majors.
It's going to be difficult for Garcia to close out a major now because the pressure keeps building, but one of these times the stars will align and Sergio will get that ever elusive major. For his sake, though, let's hope Rory isn't in his way again this week.
Fowler is starting to up his game at the majors as evidence by his record this year. He hasn't had great luck at this major, but the PGA Championship isn't about track records, it's about form and, specifically, form at the majors. And Rickie is among the leaders in that category entering the week.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
Tiger was a risky pick last week, but at least there was some upside as he had played so well in Akron over the years. That's not the case this week, though, as he's apparently only one awkward landing from aggravating his back injury. Heck, as of this writing we aren't even sure he's in the field. If he does play, though, I can't imagine his back holding up at a major for four days.
I'm not even sure where to start with Donald. Just a few years ago, Donald looked destined for a hall-of-fame career, but somewhere along the line he lost that extra gear that once had him as the top-ranked player in the world. Whatever the reason for his decline, there's no reason to think he'll have anything figured out in time this week to make a run.
Day was atop many lists entering the year as the guy who would break through for his first major. He got off to a nice start, but an injury to his hand/wrist derailed what could have been a great year. He's one to look at next year, but odds are he won't accomplish anything significant for the remainder of this year.
Singh came out of the gates on fire last week at the 3M Championship, but as the week wore on, he faded into the pack. The fact that he couldn't keep up with the guys on the Champions Tour is not a good sign for his chances this week.
As he showed earlier this season, Watson has the ability to play with the best, but for some reason, he has a habit of falling into these long swoons where he's simply not a factor. He looks to be in one of those now, and unless he starts well this week, he'll likely be a non-factor again.
ONE AND DONE GOLFER
Last week: Jason Dufner (T66) - $43,375; Season - $4,518,092
This week: Rory McIlroy - For those of you fortunate enough to still have McIlroy, I say, congrats. No, he's not at the level Tiger was at in 2000 where you could take him against the field, but he's getting close. This week will tell us a lot about young McIlroy.
Group A: Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler
Group B: Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley
Group C: Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell
Last week: Rory McIlroy (T2); Streak - 2
This week: Might as well double-up on McIlroy this week. It would be an epic failure if he were to miss the cut this week. In fact, I can't even envision it as a write this, just not possible.