McGinley: There’s no doubt Rory McIlroy has scar tissue in major championships

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley (Photo by Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Paul McGinley believes Rory McIlroy will win a fifth major title which will open the floodgates for him to surpass Nick Faldo’s major tally of six and become Europe’s greatest ever golfer, but he must overcome the mental hurdle of not getting over the line since winning his fourth major crown ten years ago.

McIlroy has come close to cracking the code since winning the 2014 PGA Championship with chances at the 2022 Open and 2023 US Open undoubtedly going down as ones that got away. But as the clock ticks on and the ten-year anniversary looms, McGinley feels the pressure for McIlroy to end his major drought will only increase.

McGinley doesn’t believe McIlroy is mentally weak but says he must develop a way of maintaining focus for four days to give himself the best chance of ending his hoodoo.

“The challenge for Rory is not a physical one and this is not about heart, this is not about guile. This is about sustaining focus and concentration for four days. That’s what this is about,” said McGinley.

“And it’s been able to do that without a slow six holes or a slow nine holes or a couple of big mistakes, and it’s that ability to keep the intensity to keep the intensity and the focus for four days. 

“That’s what the challenge is. It’s not a question of him not having the artillery or the mental ability to do it. It’s about can he sustain his focus to the intense levels that’s needed. That’s what the question is. 

“He can do it in PGA events, he has win more than anybody else in the last 10 years, comfortably. Miles ahead of anybody else.”

Plenty has been made of McIlroy’s ten year wait for another major win but when September comes, McGinley will reflect fondly on his week in Gleneagles a decade ago when he captained Europe to Ryder Cup glory over the USA.

McIlroy played on that team and has been a presence on Ryder Cup teams since his debut in 2010 and gave his best performance in the competition last year in Marco Simone.

It served as a reminder that McIlroy is still one of the greatest players of all time but those who doubt him will continue to feel validated the longer his wait for a fifth major goes on.

“I don’t want to give the impression that Rory is mentally weak, he’s far from it. You look at his career in the last 10 years and what he’s won since he last won a major championship and it’s phenomenal, it’s unmatched. Nobody comes close,” McGinley continued.

“He is, by far in my opinion, the best player in the modern era by quite a ways, and by no means is he mentally weak.

“But there is an element of doubt that’s crept in, that’s been validated by 10 years of not succeeding in major championships.”

One player who managed to quash the doubts over his ability to get over the line in the big moments was Xander Schauffele at the PGA Championship in Valhalla last month.

Just a week after being made to look like a pip-squeak at the Wells Fargo by a dominant McIlroy, the American bounced back to win his maiden major title.

McGinley spoke of the pressure Schauffele would have been under and admits it is probably tenfold when McIlroy tees it up in a major.

“I asked him, ‘when the putt went in on 18, Xander, how did you feel?’, because I can relate it to myself and the Ryder Cup, that explosion of of joy and exhilaration, it’s like scoring a goal in the last minute in a cup final or an All-Ireland, like Seamus Darby.,” explained McGinley.

“The exhilaration of when it goes in is just like a champagne bottle just exploding of unbelievable exhilaration. 

“And Xander looked at me quite sternly and he said, ‘relief’. And that shows you how much pressure he was under and that’s Xander Schauffle, that’s not Rory McIlroy. 

“So that gives you a window into how much pressure these guys feel, and Rory would be something similar. 

“And not that he can’t do it. It’s not that he lacks guile, it’s not that he lacks heart. It’s not that he lacks the game. 

“But the element of doubt has risen every year and it’s been validated by not getting over the line, and it’s only a natural human emotion.”

Despite the doubts that will linger until McIlroy gets over the line and despite being overtaken by Brooks Koepka in the major championship count and looking up at the current dominant world number one, Scottie Scheffler, McGinley has no doubts that McIlroy is still the greatest of his generation and will at least tie Faldo’a major tally of six and become the greatest European.

“I think to himself. I’ve said it a number of times, I think if he wins one…it’s like a goalscorer who hasn’t scored for a number of matches and then it goes in off his arse or off his leg or when he’s not looking and all of a sudden then the floodgates open again.

“It’s exactly the same scenario, that element of doubt seizes you and then the only way to get rid of it is validation because he lives in the real world and when people say ‘you haven’t won a major for 10 years’,  he goes, ‘yeah, I know, nobody is more aware of it to me’.  

“But if he gets a win over his belt, he goes, ‘Yeah, you know, I won a US Open the other week and I’m ready to go again’. 

“I think it would be a release valve and should he get one over the line, I expect to see two or three come quickly because for me he’s the best player of his era. 

“Now I know Scheffler at the moment is playing to a very, very high standard. How long can you keep that up? We’ll have to see but Scheffler has got the potential to be the one player who can stand toe to toe with Rory in the last 10 years.

“Should he get to six and equal Faldo that puts him as the best European in every metric in the modern world. Should he get to six which I think he will, by every metric you look at he will be the outstanding European player ever.”


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