Place your bets on Rory McIlroy. The Irish golfer is the lead contender to win The Open when it kicks off at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course on Thursday.
At least that was the prediction of two of the sport’s biggest names — Tom Watson and Davis Love 3rd, who both picked McIlroy as the player most likely to wind up on top of the leaderboard when all is said and done at the British tournament on Sunday.
“It’s hard to bet against Rory,” Love said. “He’s playing as well as anybody and just won the Genesis last week.”
“Rory has a great track record,” Watson added. “He knows the course, he’s won there before and he just won the Genesis, so the odds are with him. There won’t be much wind there, so it will bring the field together, but if I were a betting man, I’d put a few dollars on him.”
No, Watson and Love haven’t joined Golf Channel as analysts. Instead, they were just talking about the game during a visit to New York as guests of Ralph Lauren to celebrate their 30-year partnerships with the brand.
“We asked Ralph Lauren to do golf clothes for years,” Love said before a dinner at the Polo Bar Monday night. And when the brand finally decided to take the plunge, Love immediately stepped up and told the executives: “You need golfers to represent you. My dad was a golf pro and my mother was the buyer for the shop, so I knew something about the business.”
So that, as well as his storied career on the course — 21 professional wins, including two Players Championships — convinced Ralph Lauren to sign him up in 1993.
“Tom and I were the first ones,” Love said. “It wasn’t a hard negotiation for me. I was already wearing Ralph Lauren and wanted to look good.”
But things have changed significantly in terms of golf apparel over the past three decades, he said. Back then the outfits were pretty standard: a polo shirt and slacks — Payne Stewart’s plus fours notwithstanding — but now, he said, all the golfers on tour clamor for special pieces like cashmere hoodies and shirts, pants and outerwear made from the high-tech materials in the RLX golf lines. “When I was Ryder Cup captain,” Love said, “Freddie Couples kept asking if I could get more cashmere hoodies.”
Watson, on the other hand, characterizes himself as more “old school,” saying he still opts for cotton whenever possible, but has been won over by the more technical pieces he doesn’t have to iron.
“I’m really grateful Ralph Lauren chose me as a spokesman,” he said. “I always had a love for the clothes and wanted to wear them so when my agent called and said they were interested, I said, ‘Sure, whatever it takes.’ They paid me, but they didn’t really have to. The brand is a class operation with a real vision for the clothing: it has elegance but newness at the same time. I don’t play on the tour anymore, so I don’t know why they keep this old guy around, but whenever I go out, I wear Ralph Lauren. We have a really solid relationship.”
Watson ended his career with 71 professional wins including five Open Championships, two Masters tournaments and one U.S. Open.