A Golf Writer Takes On No. 1 Rory McIlroy ... On The Peloton

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The Tour de France has been rescheduled for August, but athletes are still snapping into their pedals to compete. Though they may not be the athletes you’re expecting.


"With golf courses kind of being deemed 'non-essential,' Tour pros are having to find ways to stay active and competitive," says Jonathan Wall, managing editor for equipment at GOLF Magazine and

"You hop on a spin bike, and you can race against fellow Tour pros," Jonathan says. "This is kind of a way for the elite players, especially, to kind of scratch that competitive itch."

Recently, Jonathan got a chance to scratch a competitive itch of his own. And by doing so, he learned something about his athletic ability.

It all started in late March, about two weeks after PGA pros were sent home in the middle of The Players Championship.

"We do a daily Zoom call, like a lot of other companies," Jonathan says. "One of our social media editors, she said, 'Hey, does anybody happen to have a Peloton?' And there was this silence. And I thought, 'I guess I'm the only one who has one.' So I kind of just said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've got a Peloton.' And she says, 'Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson, who are two of the bigger names on the PGA Tour, are going to be doing a Peloton ride. Do you want to hop on and just kind of chronicle it?' And so I said, 'Yeah, sure, why not?'

"And she says ... 'Do you want to hop on and just kind of chronicle it?' And so I said, 'Yeah, sure, why not?' "

Jonathan Wall

"I've always been an active guy. Love being outdoors, love playing golf, basketball, skiing. It's always been fun for me to compete. And I'm not an athlete, but I definitely train and exercise just to stay healthy. I thought, 'You know what? It's just fun. I'm going to ride with these guys.'

"And then I found out that Rory McIlroy was in the group, and that really kind of upped the motivation for me."

Among golfers, Rory McIlroy is the guy everyone wants to beat.

"It kind of goes back to The Player's Championship, which is the PGA Tour's flagship event," Jonathan says. "There had been rumors going around that Rory was the Peloton King on the PGA Tour, and he was just cranking out numbers — output numbers that, you know, professional rider, cyclists would probably be proud of. Shane Ryan, who writes for Golf Digest, he happened to just ask, you know, 'Rory, are the numbers real?' And Rory kind of just admitted, 'Yeah, I am pretty good at the Peloton.' "

He goes on social media and he'll like poke fun at some of his other playing competitors," Jonathan says. "I mean, they openly try to beat Rory on the Peloton. Like, it's a big deal when you're the number one. He's the number one golfer in the world. When you're number one, everybody's chasing you. And so, even in the Peloton arena, pro golfers are trying to dethrone the Peloton King."

The Ride

On the morning of the workout, Jonathan climbed aboard his Peloton, located in his upstairs workout room.

"I'm actually a little bit nervy. Which is crazy, because I hop on the Peloton on a very regular basis," Jonathan says.

"And I hop on the Peloton, and I open up the class. And it was like, 'OK, I'm going to go out. I'm going to try and beat Rory.' "

"It's pretty quick. Once you click 'Start' on a class, you have probably about a minute to just kind of warm your legs up. And then they do about a four to five minute warmup, where you really start to ramp up the speed and the resistance, if you want."

The workout can be hard to picture for those who've never ridden a Peloton. Is it like a live spin class? With a soundtrack? And an instructor screaming at you?

"There is definitely an instructor screaming at you," Jonathan says. "Although, I will admit that it's usually me screaming. It's usually about midway through the ride where I will get really angry and question why I'm on this darn bike."

"There is definitely an instructor screaming at you. Although, I will admit, that it's usually me screaming."

Jonathan Wall

"As you're on this bike, looking at this digital screen, it has a whole bunch of output numbers. So it has a digital leaderboard, where it shows you kind of where you stand based on your output. And the output is a combination of your resistance, and then you also have your cadence, which is how fast you're going. So I usually swipe the leaderboard away. And I just look at the cadence, the resistance and my total output. That's it."

Jonathan Wall during his ride against the Peloton King. (Jonathan Wall)
Jonathan Wall during his ride against the Peloton King. (Jonathan Wall)

"As I was riding against Justin Thomas and Bubba and Rory, the Peloton King, I had no idea where I stood," Jonathan says.

"I will admit it was very difficult. I really wanted to peek. And it wasn't until probably within the last minute of the ride, where I took a look at the leaderboard. And I had 'PR'ed, which is a 'Personal Record.' And I figured, like, 'Wow, I'm racing Rory. And I'm putting out numbers that I've never put out before.' "

"When you hear you're riding with Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, people think, 'Well, do you get to see them? Like, are there videos?' Thankfully, there's not, because nobody wants to see me dripping in sweat, screaming at an instructor," Jonathan says. "So I had to go in and check on where Rory was. And I actually scrolled up and down the leaderboard first. And I figured, even though I had a great ride, I'm, like, 'Rory's ... he had to beat me.' And I scroll all the way to the top, and I didn't see him. And I thought, 'I must have missed him.' And so I scrolled down. And then it was like, 'Oh, my goodness. I beat Rory.' "

Jonathan finished the ride ranked 58th of 10,000 riders. Rory McIlroy was down the leaderboard at No. 173.

(Courtesy Jonathan Wall)
(Courtesy Jonathan Wall)

"I was really excited," Jonathan says. "Also just completely exhausted. I told my wife. I definitely was humble-bragging the rest of the day."

But the other pro golfers didn't finish nearly as high.

"They were down the board. I'm not going to say where they were, but beating Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson was not my main motivation here," Jonathan says. "It was beating Rory. Even if he beats me again, I can still tell him, 'Well, I still beat you that one time.' And I actually beat him pretty handily."

Not to diminish what Jonathan accomplished, but there's always the chance that Rory was just having a bad day.

"It's definitely possible," Jonathan says. "But I don't know any other area in sports where an average person can compete against the best in the world. You're never going to get a chance to play Rory on the golf course in a competitive setting. This is the closest thing you're going to get.

"I actually saw Roger Federer is on Peloton, and he's putting up insane numbers. People always say he's kind of in the twilight of his tennis career. Not on the Peloton."

Roger Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles. (Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)
Roger Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles. (Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

But could Jonathan beat Roger Federer?

"Ah, no. No chance," Jonathan says.

And that gives Jonathan Wall an idea. What if pro athletes were to compete in a Peloton tournament?

"And let them go head-to-head, and crown a Peloton King throughout all sports, he says. "I think it's a great idea. I would love it. Do it for charity. Maybe we can put a bug in somebody’s ear, and they'll get it going."

Jonathan Wall is managing editor for equipment at GOLF Magazine and Click here for his article.

This segment aired on April 18, 2020.


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Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



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