It may be August, but after the final round in the PGA Championship both Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy were more intent on April. For Johnson last April, for McIlroy next April.
Johnson had his best round of the week on Sunday at Quail Hollow, a four-under-par 67, that brought him to even-par 284 for the tournament. That’s encouraging with the FedEx Cup Playoffs about to start, but discouraging when Johnson, No.1 in the world rankings, thinks of what might have been.
He had won three consecutive tournaments, starting with the Genesis at Riviera, and was the favorite in the Masters at the beginning of April. But wearing only socks he slipped walking down a stairway in the house he had rented in Augusta, injured his back and withdrew before hitting a shot.
“Definitely a little frustrated for sure,” he said. “Because going into Augusta, I was playing the best golf of my career. Then unfortunately I didn’t get to play the Masters and struggled a little bit the whole summer.”
Johnson, engaged to Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, said the back is finally pain-free. “Just a little bit tight,” he said. “I need to keep working on it, stretching it.”
McIlroy, who finished with a 68 for 285, a shot worse than Johnson, said the rhomboid muscle in his back has been going into spasms and the inside of his left arm was numb. He may not play the rest of the year.
“It’s tough,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know what I want to do. I want to get back to the winner’s circle. I don’t want to be teeing off at 9:45 in the final rounds of a major on Sunday. I have a good bit of time to get healthy and address things going forward. The next big thing is April, and that’s really where my focus will be from now to then.”
He lacks only a Masters win for a career Grand Slam.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do” McIlroy said. “You might not see me until next year. You might see me in a couple weeks’ time.”
Other major winners
Jordan Spieth also lacks a win in this major for a career Slam. The attention was on him the first few days of this tournament, as he sought, just past his 24th birthday, to be the youngest golfer to win each major. He didn’t come close. Even a one-under 70 on Sunday was good only for a three-over 286, outside the top 25.
“It was nothing more than execution on the greens,” Spieth said. I drove the ball well, Michael [Greller, Spieth’s caddie] is telling me walking off 18, ‘Hey, I just want you to know that’s a great year in the majors.’ He almost thinks I’m disappointed how the week went. But we won a major [the British Open].”
Brooks Koepka also won a major, the U.S. Open. On Sunday he shot 69, two under, for an even-par 284.
“The golf course is gettable, I think, if you play well,” Koepka said. “It’s hard enough to win one of these things. You have to put yourself in position. We never did.”
Rickie Fowler shot 32 on the back nine, making birdies on 12 through 15 and his four-under 67 moved him up to a tie for fifth.
“Not too bad,” Fowler said. “I mean it would have been nice to get off to a little better shot on the front nine, but it’s not easy with the first six holes. Not a lot of scoring opportunities.
“It was fun to get on a run on the back nine.”
Day forgets his Saturday
After his brutal finish Saturday, the quadruple-bogey eight on 18 when he was in the trees, flowers and rough, Jason Day began with a birdie Sunday, shot a one-under 70 and ended up at one-under 283, in the top 10.