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Alternate Shot: Will missed cuts change Rory's U.S. Open chances?

Rory McIlroy missed another cut on Friday. Our Bob Harig and Jason Sobel traded emails to discuss it in this edition of Alternate Shot.

From: Jason Sobel
To: Bob Harig
What's up, dude? I know you're probably busy right now (inside joke alert, folks!) booking travel for the 2019 John Deere Classic, but Rory McIlroy missed another cut this week and the U.S. Open is only three weeks away, and I think we're supposed to start freaking out about it. Sorry, but I might have to forfeit my GWAA card if it means getting all bent out of shape about back-to-back missed cuts is a prerequisite for the golf writing gig. I mean, he also won two of his last three starts before this. We get it: He's streaky. Please tell me a level-headed guy like yourself isn't going to view these two MCs as a precursor to what could be a disappointing major championship summer for the game's No. 1 player.

From: Bob Harig
To: Jason Sobel
Despite your overstated and underappreciated take regarding my travel-planning skills, I agree with you on this. Rory is too often compared to Tiger, who elicits primal screams when he misses a cut. Despite being 13 years younger, Rory has already missed more cuts than Tiger. It's who he is. He's way more like Phil Mickelson on the consistency meter, yet he has four majors at an age that is eight years younger than Lefty was when he won his first. I'm not worried about Rory. But I am a bit concerned about the high scores he posts with some frequency. Rory gets on streaks -- both ways -- and when it goes bad, you'd have to agree he has a tough time fighting his way out of it.

From: Jason Sobel
To: Bob Harig
Because I'm a good company guy, I was watching SportsCenter and it showed an eye-opening graphic: Since becoming No. 1 in 2012, Rory has 13 missed cuts. Tiger has that same number since turning pro in 1996. You're right -- they're compared too often, and for no reason other than both were great players at young ages. But those comparisons aren't fair to McIlroy. The way golf works is that it's much, much better to be great sometimes and bad other times than to be pretty good all the time. If you don't believe me, just ask Charles Howell III. If nothing else, these roller-coaster streaks of Rory's make him more intriguing. We don't know exactly why they happen and we never know what to expect next. I'm a big fan of the great unknown.

From: Bob Harig
To: Jason Sobel
And that's really what it has been with Rory. Great stretches followed by slumps. It happened in 2012 -- remember when he missed the cut at three straight tournaments? -- and later that year he was No. 1 in the world again. Then he had a rough 2013 and fell all the way to 10th in the world before going on a run again when he also won consecutive majors. He's in a bad way now, but I put that way more to scheduling -- five straight weeks of golf. It's too much, and it was bound to take a toll.

From: Jason Sobel
To: Bob Harig
Of course, though, we being the big, bad media, we're going to extrapolate poor form on the European Tour into rapidly decreasing chances for him to win a fifth major championship title at the upcoming U.S. Open. Sorry, I'm not buying that rhetoric. Rory misses the cut at the Irish Open every year; it hasn't hurt him afterward in the past. But -- and yes, that's a big but -- I don't love his chances at Chambers Bay for the sole reason that I believe the not-so-subtle nuances of the course will help level the playing field in a few weeks. I don't think he'll win there, but that prediction has less to do with his recent form and more to do with the fact that dumb luck will have as much to do with determining a champion there as raw talent.

From: Bob Harig
To: Jason Sobel
OK, that is where we differ. While I wouldn't be surprised if he failed to contend -- it happens -- I think Chambers Bay offers him a better chance than a regular U.S. Open layout, simply because it is going to afford him more room off the tee. I agree that it is hard to gain an advantage there because the course is so unique. And yet, if his ability to hit the driver is not thwarted, he is a threat if he's hitting it well simply because he hits it so far. And that is where having the weekend off might do him some good. He can attempt to get refocused and make plans to get in some early practice at Chambers Bay.

From: Jason Sobel
To: Bob Harig
Right, he'll have more room off the tee -- and so will everyone else. I mean, it's a links course. Even Jim Furyk is going to bomb it 330 if he finds the proper sight line. I'm also not sure I'm buying your assertion -- and Rory's too, it should be noted -- that a few weeks off before then will be beneficial. In three of his four major wins -- and each of the past three -- Rory played the week leading to that tournament. He tends to hit these streaks when he's been competing, not when he's grinding away on the practice range.

From: Bob Harig
To: Jason Sobel
I'll give you the latter point, but in this case, given his schedule to date, he has no choice but to stay away from tournament golf and use the time to prepare for a course he has yet to see. And there is now plenty of time for that. Learning the golf course will be an important factor, perhaps giving him a small advantage on those who spent less time there. Of course, none of it matters if he's not playing well -- and suddenly he's not. And who saw that coming just 10 days ago?

From: Jason Sobel
To: Bob Harig
I'll answer your rhetorical question: Nobody! By the same token, though, if his game can go from hot to cold this quickly, it can just as soon go back to hot. I'm still bearish on him at Chambers Bay, but St. Andrews should be a perfect venue for him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he takes down Whistling Straits too. Imagine that: The game's No. 1 player winning the year's final two major titles after a few disappointments. It would almost feel like ... déjà vu.