Rory McIlroy went vintage as a new way to suck us all back in

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

Until last week it seemed only the delay to the most anticipated birth since Jesus Christ or the lack of sleep from looking after a newborn could stop Scottie Scheffler from romping to the PGA Championship title this week.

That was before Rory McIlroy, noticeably greyer and more buff than he was ten years ago, stepped forward and delivered a vintage performance which has everyone believing again.

In 2014, McIlroy won the Open and a World Golf Championship before he won the PGA Championship at Valhalla. Now he is returning to the site of his last major championship triumph following back-to-back PGA Tour triumphs.

McIlroy hasn’t been back to Valhalla Golf Club since holding off Phil Mickelson in that 2014 epic but he returns in a similar vein of form he was in ten years ago.

When McIlroy teamed up with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, it was a bigger win for Lowry who earned exemptions into the final few signature events of the PGA Tour season, guaranteed a two-year exemption on tour and climbed into the top-30 of the FedEx Cup standings.

It could have been questioned at the time how much this everything but a hit and giggle tournament meant to McIlroy but while the rewards have benefited Lowry, it’s Rory who has taken the most from that win.

He sung ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ that night. The classic song by Journey, and it’s fair to say that everybody has now reinvested themselves into Rory’s near ten-year pilgrimage to finally claim that elusive fifth major crown.

It wouldn’t have taken much to put enough pressure on Xander Schauffele to wilt away, although he was in front after seven holes, he was already looking tense. The cut of a man who can’t be taken seriously in the heat of battle. But McIlroy played the type of golf that won him those four major titles and it was golf that not even Scheffler would be able to live with.

It was vintage McIlroy, when he plays like that he is still the best player in the world.

For those who remember the Holywood man’s four major wins well despite it being almost ten years ago, McIlroy’s golf on Sunday night had bits from each win. If you’d put a bushy haired wig and a Jumeirah cap on his head, you’d have said ‘ah I’ve seen this before.’

Aggression, swagger, swashbuckling, flair, brilliance, heroism. McIlroy’s best golf is not this ultra consistent fairways and greens machine like performance like Scheffler.

It’s about peppering flags, holing long putts, heroic recovery shots, holing out from off the green, flirting with danger but pulling it off with fearless aggression.

There have been flashes of it over the last ten years. What sucks people in is that McIlroy is not a guarantee. Even at the peak of his powers you tuned in to see him win but also to see him blow it.

He won’t be the favourite this week, but until he lands that fifth major he will go into all four big events under the most pressure and scrutiny and the longer the wait continues, the more the pressure will increase.

The 2022 and 2023 seasons saw McIlroy register seven top-8 finishes in eight majors including three top-3 finishes. It seemed a case of when rather than if, until an underwhelming start to the 2024 PGA Tour season and a T22 at the Masters crushed that hype.

Seemingly further away than ever has he wrestled with his swing and sought Butch Harmon to fix the issues, it looked like his wait for a fifth major would enter an eleventh year.

The hype train had empty carriages, now the train to Valhalla is overcrowded.

“It’s really funny, so going into Valhalla in 2014 I had won my last two starts, and going into this year I’ve won my last two starts. Just need to try to replicate whatever I did in 2014, just try to do that all over again,” said McIlroy with a glint in his eye.

“Yeah, I’m feeling really good with my game. I need to stay in my own little world next week and not get too far ahead of myself, but if you can step on to the first tee at Valhalla on Thursday and feel as good about my game as I did today, I think I’ll have a good chance.”

That T28 finish will hit like crack…

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.