It was November 3rd, 2019 when McIlroy came from two shots behind to birdie the first extra hole and defeat American Xander Schauffele in a play-off to capture the WGC – HSBC Champions title. The win in Shanghai made it four wins in a single season for McIlroy having captured The Players, the Canadian Open and the Tour Championship.
Two years ago, St. Patrick’s Day had been kind to McIlroy winning the 2019 Players Championship and a still 27th pro career victory. In the intervening 16 months, McIlroy’s best in the 25 events since his Chinese victory takeaway has been two third place finishes and nine other top-10s.
And while McIlroy’s revelation last Friday that he’s been copying Bryson DeChambeau shocked the likes of 2014 victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, it hasn’t concerned 2021 European captain, Padraig Harrington.
“I can turn around to you and say, we’ve seen many players on the range doing that, many players, and Rory the same,” said Harrrington ahead of this week’s Honda Classic, the event he won in both 2005 and 2015, at PGA National in Florida.
“It’s not like I haven’t done it myself, so I’m not going to sit here and pass judgment on Rory. Right from the get-go I’m surprised in 1996 that most people didn’t recognize it with Tiger (Woods) that he had a tremendous advantage off the tee and try to keep up with Tiger.
“I’m startled, Rory used that tool exactly in 2010 and 2011, and Rory’s long hitting and just hitting more drivers allowed the likes of DJ, Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, they were all trying to play golf like the rest of us at that stage.
“Rory came out and started hitting drivers on more holes, being more aggressive off the tee. That’s when you started seeing these guys freeing up and going, oh, maybe we should hit drivers. Rory’s still one of the best drivers of the ball in the game so we don’t need to worry about it himself.”
Despite this week’s Honda Classic being the closest Tour stop to his Bear’s Club abode, McIlroy is taking the week off ahead of next week’s WGC – Dell Match-Play in Texas. A McIlroy win would be a fifth time in his career he’s missed a halfway cut and celebrated in his next tournament with a victory.
And given McIlroy’s enormous talent, you cannot write off him bouncing back with a win next week in Austin, in what will be a last hit out before the 8th of April commencing Masters. One thing though is almost certain on this St. Patrick’s Day, McIlroy definitely will not be spending the day with his feet-up downing a few pints of Guinness!