“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
It’s not often I start off by quoting Mike Tyson, for the record I have only a passing interest in boxing but this line resonated with me when thinking of Rory McIlroy because while I wouldn’t say he is on the floor, he’s certainly on the ropes.
Leeds United have gone from Bielsa ball to Brexit ball in the space of thirteen months, in a shorter period McIlroy has gone from only a matter of when he ends his major championship drought to seemingly further away than ever where we question ‘is he ever going to win another one?’
Such was the body blow of his missed cut at the Masters, the four-time major champion tees it up at Oak Hill probably as confident in himself and unsure of how he will perform as we are.
Twelve months ago hype around McIlroy ahead of the PGA Championship reached fever pitch after his stunning 64 on Masters Sunday left him primed for Southern Hills. Excitement went into overdrive when he hit the front after round one and although he didn’t win this was another step in the right direction.
There was a near miss at the US Open and while he did nothing wrong at the Open Championship to be ambushed by Cam Smith and eventually finish third in a two-horse race in Spursy fashion he rebounded with FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai titles.
McIlroy has traditionally always responded well to set backs. In fact, when he has had a point to prove he has often been at his most dangerous. However, his reply to his Augusta disappointment has been that of a wounded deer rather than a ferocious lion.
The Holywood native arrives at Oak Hill looking for his first major in nine years (2014 PGA Championship) and while nobody has more top-10s than him in that spell (17) everyone around him has won major championships it seems (Koepka, Spieth, Rahm, Scheffler, Johnson, Morikawa, Thomas, Fitzpatrick etc).
The LIV bounce has worn off for McIlroy and instead it has weighed him down like an anchor in 2023.
His quick and blunt responses to LIV questions in Tuesday’s press conference suggested he was signalling to the world that he was no longer interested in speaking out on the LIV/PGA TOUR divide but is now tunnel visioned towards his golf.
It is known that he had a meeting with Tiger Woods at his home recently so perhaps the penny has dropped for him in that regard.
McIlroy has spoken about the mental toll, his supposed duties as PGA Tour spokesperson have taken on him over the last twelve months and when he looks over his shoulder and sees Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick taking a restricted interest in what is going on and picking up major championships along the way, I think he has had to take a look in the mirror.
Distancing himself from LIV questions can only be a good thing. McIlroy played more than well enough in 2022 to give himself a great chance of winning his fifth major title and first since 2014 this year and it’s time for outside distractions to take a back seat.
Tiger Woods rarely if ever spoke out on issues when he was dominating the sport, even to this day he has tried his best to distance himself from topics of debate.
Rory needs to do the same. He’s talked the talk, fielded more questions than anyone has ever had to do on one subject. It’s time for the golf clubs to come up with the answers.
Leave a comment