McIlroy, Spieth overshadowed heading into PGA Championship
(Reuters) - Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were ranked one and two in the world heading into last year's PGA Championship, but they return this year almost as after-thoughts, overshadowed by a wave of hotter rivals who have grabbed the limelight.
Not that anyone is writing off the pair from contending at Baltusrol in New Jersey this week, but their status as underdogs underlines how quickly the sporting landscape can change.
World number one Jason Day, U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, and British Open duelists Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are more the focus of attention, leaving McIlroy and Spieth searching to find the missing ingredient needed to regain their previous greatness.
Not that either is too far off top form, but there is a fine line in golf between lifting a trophy and finishing in the pack.
McIlroy, winner of four major championships including the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships, feels more at home at Baltusrol than at Royal Troon, where he tied for fifth, a distant 16 strokes behind winner Stenson nine days ago.
The Northern Irishman is probably the best driver in the world when he is on song, but links courses such as Troon that often do not necessitate hitting a driver do not always play to his strength.
McIlroy admitted he could not have envisaged matching Stenson's record winning score of 20-under at Troon, though his task was not helped by the bad luck he had to be on the more difficult side of the draw.
"Baltusrol, it's more of my type of golf I guess, and I feel like I can really do well this week. I feel like my game is in good shape," McIlroy told reporters on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's opening round.
"I had some really good practice sessions with my coach, Michael Bannon last week. I feel like I'm swinging it well. I'm hitting it good. Every aspect of my game, I'm very comfortable with. Continued...