Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
Two-time Open champion Pádraig Harrington insists Rory McIlroy is still easily good enough to win more major championships but putting displays like Saturday afternoon need to be eradicated from his game.
Putting woes hampered McIlroy in the final rounds of the 2022 Open Championship and this year’s US Open and another dismal day on the Royal Liverpool greens all but ended his chances with a nine shot deficit to overcome and a wealth of quality names between him and leader Brian Harman.
“He’s easily good enough. We all know that. He could win at any stage. But as I said, it’s a little bit more complicated than just being good enough. There’s other guys who are good enough. There’s plenty of guys out here. The standard is very deep. Plenty of guys who are competing and playing,” said Harrington.
“Rory has to bring his “A” game. That’s just it. I see he’s pretty much down where I am putting this week, and I can tell you that’s pretty miserable. He’s not going to win tournaments putting like that this week. Not saying he’s putting badly, but the fact is he’s probably given up 13 shots to Brian Harman, 12 in putts. I only had given up 14.
“But that’s what I’m saying. You just can’t — there’s too many good players for you to go out there and not have all of your game at a decent level and some of your game at a really good level. That’s just the way it is.
“You can’t just rely on — it all has to fire. That’s the reality of it, and you only get four of those a year. But as I said, he’s got four goals a year for another 20 years.”
Barring a golfing miracle it will be a decade since McIlroy lifted his fourth major title at the 2014 PGA Championship and with the truncated major season it’s a long wait before Augusta National next April.
“There’s obviously more pressure in a major, but there’s more pressure for everybody,” said Harrington who will head to Royal Porthcawl for the Senior Open Championship.
“Could be the thing with the majors that we’re looking at one person. There’s 156 guys and everybody is focused on one person. That kind of puts him — when you look at one, what’s the chance of any one person winning in a given week; whereas if you had a group you could probably pick the winner from the group, and Rory is obviously part of the group. He’s just not he one coming out on top.
“If you were told you were starting in Rory’s shoes next year at the majors, I think you’d be pretty stoked.”
The three-time major champion cut a saturated figure with some nasty Sunday rain battering Hoylake and as for developments this afternoon he said Harman is in complete control with a five-shot lead with the rain potentially ruling out any low scoring bursts from the chasing pack.
“Look, he has to understand he’s got loads of ways of winning. He could play great and win, he could play average and win, he could tray terrible and just hang in there and win, he could play terrible and he’ll still have a chance coming down the last couple.
“He’s got so many scenarios, so many outs. He’s holding all the cards. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean that he will win, but he’s holding all the different options. Unfortunately with golf you don’t get to declare; you have to finish it out. Nobody gives you the tournament.
“He will have to play the 18 holes, and yes, a bit of rain and a bit of wind just adds a little bit to that, but he’s a tough nut. I can tell you that.
“I would expect him to knuckle down. I think the guys behind are looking for that rain to go away. I don’t think they’re necessarily looking for the wind to go away, but if the rain goes away, I think the guys behind, somebody could shoot a 6-under par and at least get up close to him and put some pressure on him.”