Fact or Fiction: Boosting the Zurich Classic, Predicting Rory McIlroy’s Career Wins

SI Golf's writers and editors debate whether the PGA Tour's two-man team tournament deserves better and if LIV Golf should play more outside the U.S.
Apr 28, 2024; Avondale, Louisiana, USA; Rory McIlroy congratulates a win with Shane Lowry after the
Apr 28, 2024; Avondale, Louisiana, USA; Rory McIlroy congratulates a win with Shane Lowry after the / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to SI Golf’s Fact or Fiction, where we’d love to play some alternate shot with friends but hope they’d still be our friends afterward.

Once again, we’re here to debate a series of statements for writers and editors to declare as “Fact” or “Fiction” along with a brief explanation. Responses may also occasionally be “Neutral” since there's a lot of gray area in golf.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know on the SI Golf X account.

In the wake of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry’s popular win at the Zurich Classic, the PGA Tour should get more serious about the event (and team golf) by making it a signature event, therefore luring more of the Tour’s top players.

Bob Harig: FACT. By making this a signature event, not only do you assure more of the top players competing, but you can limit the field. The idea of 80 teams starting and so many players involved really defeats the purpose. Lean into this event and make it bigger.

John Pluym: FACT. The PGA Tour needs more events like Zurich, but with the fields limited to the best players in the world. And if the Tour can mandate that the winners get up in front of a raucous crowd and sing, “Don’t Stop Believin,’” all the better. 

Shane Lowry hugs Rory McIlroy after winning the 2024 Zurich Classic.
The entire panel thinks the PGA Tour should lift the Zurich Classic, which enjoyed its greatest week as a team event when Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry won. / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Ritter: FACT. These signature events are supposed to be rotating a bit, are they not? Time for Zurich to get in the mix so we can see more Ryder Cup-caliber pairings. 

John Schwarb: FACT. The Zurich’s format is such a treat in the sea of sameness on the Tour schedule, yet its field hardly gets fans excited. Signature events are largely a function of sponsors and schedules, but no excuses—it’s time to get many more top players to New Orleans. 

Speaking of McIlroy, the Zurich was his 25th PGA Tour win, moving him into a tie for 23rd all time. To get to 15th requires 31 wins (tying Jimmy Demaret), and at 34 years old that’s as far as the Ulsterman will get.

Bob Harig: FICTION. Assuming good health, Rory should have 10 good years left. He’ll need some good fortune but even one win a year gets him to 35 victories. Rory is due for a couple of multiple-victory seasons. Getting to 40, while a stretch, is not out of the question..

John Pluym: FICTION. McIlroy will need a lot of good fortune to get to 31 wins, especially with Scottie Scheffler winning week to week or every other week (can he keep it up?). There are so many incredible players out there. But with 10-plus years left in his career, McIlroy should land somewhere between 30 to 35 wins.

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. So many variables with this kind of prediction, but assuming good health and continued drive, McIlroy should play well into his 40s. I’d guess he lands somewhere between Demaret’s 31 and Tom Watson’s 39.  

John Schwarb: FACT. The tendency with these questions is to overestimate right after a win, but his iron game and putting aren’t among the Tour’s best every week and he mostly plays elite events where he has to beat the best. He can absolutely grab six more wins in what will be a long career but I’m not willing to go overboard.

LIV Golf’s Adelaide event was a smash for the second consecutive year. Half of LIV Golf’s regular-season events are in North America but the Saudi-backed circuit needs to play the majority of its schedule overseas to better connect with nations starved for pro golf.

Bob Harig: FICTION. LIV Golf should definitely consider adding a second Australian event in a different state. It should go to South Africa, Spain, the U.K., South America, Japan or South Korea. But establishing a presence in the U.S. is imperative. It’s where most of the corporate support resides, and where the TV rights deals can potentially be the greatest. It’s a tough road without America.

John Pluym: FACT. LIV Golf Adelaide saw the biggest crowds of the dozen LIV events played over two seasons, so why not go there more often along with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour? It’s no different than the NFL playing more and more games overseas. Do it!

Cameron Smith plays a shot at the 2024 LIV Golf Adelaide event.
Cameron Smith played in front of huge crowds in his native Australia. / Courtesy LIV Golf

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. LIV is getting some traction overseas, but to become a bigger player in pro golf it needs to connect here in the U.S. I assume that’ll happen through the negotiated partnership that’s been in the works for nearly a year, but …

John Schwarb: FACT. A second Australian event seems like a no-brainer, and Asia is likely underserved with just two events on the LIV schedule. The league could also create wild-card spots for local players, boosting interest. If a LIV–PGA Tour merger of sorts remains far away, then LIV should stop trying to compete as hard for U.S. eyeballs and go where the Tour can’t. Or won’t.  

A Golf Digest story about NBC Sports said the network is still unsure who will be in the lead analyst’s chair in the U.S. Open, which is less than two months away. The chaos shows NBC should never have let Paul Azinger go. 

Bob Harig: FACT. I’m partial to Azinger. I don’t necessarily have a problem with rotating analysts, but we’d never know about it if Azinger were retained. And the way that went down sure seems curious. Having already dispensed with Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch, moving on from another comfortable voice seems too much..

John Pluym: FICTION. I don’t care who sits in the chair as long as they’re interesting. Who do golf fans want analyzing the action? Who do the players want? Let’s stir the pot instead of always trying to make things comfortable. Let’s also get the players mic’d up at events. In fact, that would be more interesting than who’s sitting in the lead analyst’s chair.  

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. I like Azinger, but rotating the chair has added some juice to the broadcasts so far this year. Also: do we need a “lead analyst” at the USO, or could NBC continue some sort of hybrid-rotation that week? I’m open to seeing what they come up with. 

John Schwarb: NEUTRAL. I was receptive to NBC’s plan to rotate the chair early in the year but no one has stuck yet and it’s fair to ask if these were actual tryouts or just a cheap way to run a booth. The U.S. Open deserves an analyst with gravitas and right now I feel like I’ll wish Azinger was there. But NBC still has time to get this right. 

SI Golf staff