Jim Nantz: ‘Rory Going To Surprise People This Week’

Believe it or not, Geno Smith is not the only storyline in the world of the sports these days. In fact, the PGA Championship begins at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, on Thursday.

“I can report no one has been sucker-punched so far in the last couple of days,” CBS Sports lead announcer Jim Nantz joked on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones, before fielding a question about the health of Rory McIlroy.

No, McIlroy wasn’t punched in the face, but he is attempting to return ahead of schedule from ligament damage to his left ankle. How will the 26-year-old Irishman fare in the PGA Championship, especially after winning the event last year?

“I think that Rory is going to surprise people this week,” Nantz said. “From all the footage I’ve seen – and I’ve been out here since yesterday just watching him move about – he claims he’s 100 percent. I doubt that. The only thing is, he’s just a little bit competitive rusty. But hey, when he’s on, it’s Rory and Jordan (Spieth). They got the best games in the world. If (McIlroy) can just kind of survive through the first day and go out and not shoot a high number, I think this guy could actually be right there on Sunday.”

The same can be said for Spieth, who won the Masters and the U.S. Open before missing a playoff in the Open Championship by a single stroke. Spieth had some uncharacteristically poor shots down the stretch at St. Andrews, but Nantz doesn’t anticipate any lingering effects on the psyche of the just-turned 22-year-old.

“I think his (mindset) is he’s going to go out and win this thing,” Nantz said, “and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he did. This guy, it’s insane what this guy had done at this age. If he wins in, I think it’d have to go down – with all due respect to names like Nicklaus and Woods and everybody else you want to come up with – but it’d probably be the greatest year in golf since Hogan’s achievement in ’53. Again, since Hogan, you’re talking Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods – they never did anything like this. This would be insane.”

And the sports world – golf and otherwise – is taking notice.

“I think just now people are starting to catch up with the story,” Nantz said. “The kid turned 22 since the last major over at St. Andrews last month. So he’s a sage enow. He’s got a title age behind him. I think Jordan’s going to come in here and, as he is every time he tees it up, he’s right in the mix – and maybe he wins on Sunday.”

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