SHEBOYGAN, Wis.—Who’s the world’s best golfer?
Is it Rory McIlroy, who has won two of the last three PGA championships in his ascent to the No. 1 ranking?
Or is it Jordan Spieth, who has won two of the last three major championships to rise to No. 2 behind McIlroy?
“I’ll tell you at the end of the week,’’ McIlroy said Wednesday.
We’ll start finding out at 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, when McIlroy, Spieth and British Open champion Zach Johnson tee it up in the first round of the 97th PGA championship at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy will be making his first appearance since he ruptured a ligament in his left ankle while playing soccer with some pals on July 4.
“I thought I broke it,’’ McIlroy said. “ I heard like a snap. I totally ruptured one ligament.’’
That experience will not deter him from future Bend-it-like-Beckham forays, he said: “That was the fourth or fifth time in a 10-day period where I had played football. I enjoy it. [An injury] can happen walking off a tee box.’’
And after playing 72 holes in Portugal last week, McIlroy said he’s more than healthy enough to win this week.
“That was basically my fitness test,’’ he said. “Four days in a row. No pain, no swelling, no anything. Then we knew that, `OK, ready to go.’ ’’
If McIlroy is intent on reasserting himself, Spieth is focused on the opportunity to win his third major of 2015, rather than lamenting that he missed a precious Grand Slam chance by coming up short at St. Andrews.
“I know the history of it,’’ Spieth said. “At the same time, my frustration was only that we were tied for the lead with two holes to go and we didn’t close it out. That was the hardest part to get over. It wasn’t trying to win a Grand Slam.’’
McIlroy–who has won two of golf’s last five majors, the 2014 British Open and PGA—tipped his cap to Spieth’s already-remarkable season.
“If you were to go by this year, you would have to say Jordan [is the world’s best player],’’ McIlroy said. “If you go over the last two years, it’s probably a toss-up between Jordan and myself. People are going to place importance on different aspects of the game. It’s all a matter of opinion at this point.’’
Spieth admires what McIlroy brings to a golf course.
“I wish I could hit it as far as he does,’’ Spieth said. “Rory’s an inspiring player, and I enjoy playing with him. It’s fun when you can feed off of guys that are incredible golfers.’’
While Spieth and McIlroy are going head to head, Dustin Johnson will be facing, in the eyes of many people, a personal demon. Redemption. At the 2010 PGA here, he grounded a club in a remote bunker on his 72nd hole and missed a chance for victory.
“[I think about it] as many times as I’ve been asked the question,’’ said Johnson, insisting he’s over it. “But this year, I don’t have to worry about it. There’s a grandstand there. Thank you, PGA.’’
Johnson certainly could earn redemption this week. And many others in the field could earn their place in history here.
But only two golfers teeing it up at Whistling Straits are in the hunt for World’s Best Golfer.