PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jon Rahm got over it almost immediately.
Rory McIlroy still seemed miffed, nearly 48 hours later.
The two superstars apparently had wildly different impressions of what transpired over the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament won by Scottie Scheffler but defined more by the course conditions that a vocal few said were over the top.
Admittedly “complaining” after another weekend 76 dropped him out of the top 10, McIlroy criticized the setup at Bay Hill, saying that something needed to change in future years or that players will start skipping the event to prepare for the $20 million Players Championship.
“Yeah, unless you were out on the golf course, you wouldn’t understand in a way,” McIlroy said Tuesday of his post-round frustration. “Look, it was the same for everyone. I certainly get that. But there were a lot of alcoholic beverages being drunk in the locker room when I went in there on Sunday afternoon, so it wasn’t just me out there having a rough time.”
Full-field tee times from The Players Championship
The first-round leader at Bay Hill, McIlroy shot a pair of 76s to end the week. He’s had a similar pattern of late fades over the past few years.
Following that disappointment, McIlroy said he didn’t touch his clubs Monday – “I just sort of left them alone for a day” – and treated it basically as a mental-health day. He had a quick workout at TPC Sawgrass but otherwise took it easy and regrouped.
“I think sometimes those Mondays between tournaments can be important to just sort of flip the switch a little bit and recharge,” he said, “and then you wake up on Tuesday morning and feel a bit better about everything, and you get after it again.”
Rahm was making his debut at Bay Hill and didn’t know what to expect – other than the knowledge that the place gets progressively more difficult over the weekend, to the point that it can veer into, as McIlroy said at the time, “crazy golf.”
Still, Rahm said that he’d “completely forgotten” about a final-round 74 within an hour of his finish – and that’s not abnormal, especially now that he’s become a father. Like McIlroy, Rahm said Monday was a travel day, and that he was more worried about how his son would handle the 2 ½-hour drive than how he had played a day earlier.
Upon reflection, he was asked: Did he have any issues with the setup?
Not at all.
“The golf course setup is what it is,” he said, adding later: “But I’d rather play at Bay Hill every single week of the year than a golf course that challenges you in no other way than putting.”
It was Rahm, after all, who infamously criticized the setup at the American Express as a “piece of s–t f—–g setup. Putting contest week.”
“If it was up to me,” he said, “we would see more of that [Bay Hill setup] every single week rather than a setup with no rough and having to shoot 25 under.”
The good news: McIlroy and Rahm should find a happy medium here at TPC Sawgrass, where the average winning score the past two March editions has been 15 under par.