Will Rory McIlroy ever get his major mojo back? He’s tried juggling, self-help books and mental gurus, but endured another emotional end toa Slam bid after missing cut at The Open
- Rory McIlroy’s sensational round of 65 not enough for him to make the weekend
- He’s been the most consistent player all season bar the four events that mattered
- You wonder how he is going to break the trend as he seems to struggle mentally
- There’s no sign of progress. Indeed, if anything, things might be getting worse
Paul McGinley compares Rory McIlroy to the brightest schoolboy in the classroom who has a tendency to daydream every now and then.
Perhaps a better analogy is the schoolboy who is a genius all year but gets to the biggest exam and spends the first hour convulsed by nerves.
Scores of 79-65 this week to miss the cut by one continued a pattern that has been going on since 2015, when the possibility of becoming only the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam first came into view — but it has moved into sharp focus this year.
Rory McIlroy has again much to ponder after he missed the Portrush cut on Friday
The 30-year-old Northern Irishman has been the most consistent player in the game all season bar the four events that matter most.
At three of those four, he played his way out of contention on the first day before bouncing back. It follows that, at the biggest event he will ever play, the pattern should be seen in its most extreme form.
His round on Thursday started with a quadruple bogey eight and ended the following day with a failure bordering on the epic.
You wonder how McIlroy is going to break the trend. He’s tried juggling balls and self-help books, playing the week before a major and not playing, he’s consulted the top mental performance gurus in Florida and deep-thinking pros like American Brad Faxon.
McIlroy made five birdies on the back nine but fell short by one shot at Royal Portrush
There’s no sign of progress. Indeed, if anything, things might be getting worse. With a tied 21st placing at the Masters, a backdoor top 10 at the US PGA, tied ninth at the US Open and this missed cut, it’s the second season in his entire career where he’s not had a top-five finish in a major.
It is heartbreaking to watch for anyone who loves golf. It’s akin to a football fan watching Messi stumble over his own shoelaces for 20 minutes and then start playing when Barcelona are 3-0 down.
At Royal Portrush last week we had the surely unprecedented scenario of the golfer who was the bookmakers’ favourite and the best player in the game for 48 weeks of the year being tipped by absolutely no one to win.
In other words, no one paid to analyse and critique the players expected him to cope with the expectation. How sad is that?
Two years ago, his caddie at the time JP Fitzgerald took him to one side at the Open at Birkdale and sparked a stirring revival with some stern, shocking words: ‘For f**k’s sake, you’re Rory f***ing McIlroy, start playing like him.’
McIlroy was emotional after failing to make the birdie he needed on the 18th hole
We saw a bit of McIlroy harnessing the crowd’s energy over the back nine at Portrush on Friday
We saw a bit of that over the back nine at Portrush on Friday — a player harnessing the will of the crowd rather than being cowed. He’s always been at his best when playing from the heart. When he’s Rory bleeping McIlroy.
A couple of weeks ago in Scotland he said that when he tried to concentrate on the majors, like Brooks Koepka does, he went the other way. But trying to be someone he isn’t, someone who tries to treat them as just another week — how on earth can you do that when you’re as much a golf nerd as Rory? — is clearly making him even more confused.
On Friday evening, the emotion of the back nine took so much out of him he was close to tears at the end.
The last time we saw him with a quivering bottom lip after a round was the 2011 Masters, when he fell apart on the back nine on Sunday.
At 21, he used his experience from previous tournament to walk away with the US Open in 2011
Back then he was just 21 and he showed what he learned at the very next major, walking away with the US Open.
It is now five years since his last major win and so it’s going to be that much harder for him to do something similar this time.
But, over that back nine, when the love and support ‘hit him like a ton of bricks’, there surely lay the germ of a way forward.
The problem now, of course, is that it’s almost nine months to the next major — and by then it will be another build-up dominated by talk of the career Grand Slam.
In the meantime, he’s got a WGC event in Memphis this week and then the FedEx Cup, with its $15million first prize, next month.
He’ll probably win both.
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