McIlroy is better when he has something to prove

Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images
Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images

Victorious Gleneagles Ryder Cup captain turned respected and knowledgeable TV pundit, Paul McGinley knows Rory McIlroy better than most.

McGinley, who has been left disappointed in McIlroy electing not to contest this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, has put that aside to again speak frankly on his assessment of McIlroy’s game.

Now 53-weeks removed since his last victory, while managing just one win at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in the past 30-months since capturing the 2016 Tour Championship, McIlroy arrived at Sawgrass playing the part of a ‘nearly man’ of late.

Already this year, we have watched McIlroy finish awfully close on six occasions while in the 15-months since the commencement to the 2018 season, McIlroy has been in the final group on nine occasions but not once have we enjoyed seeing the current World No. 6 end-up on a presentation green.

McGinley’s delighted with McIlroy’s consistency but then McGinley and indeed McIlroy himself expects more.

“I think it’s great to see him playing as consistent as he has because that’s something that’s been missing from his career,” said McGinley.

“One of the things that’s been great to watch with Rory over the years is the fact that when he gets hot, he gets really hot and he generally wins. That hasn’t been the trend the last couple of years.

“He’s become a little bit more consistent, we all know how talented he is, but golf is about winning and there’s no doubt he’s got an issue on a Sunday and it’s growing.

“We have got a saying in Ireland that when the dogs are barking, keep walking – because he has got a lot of people barking in his ear.

“A lot of people, like we are right now, are questioning why he’s not getting it done on Sunday. Is it a question of guile? No. He’s won big tournaments in the past, but he’s lost his confidence when it comes down to the last day.

“There is a hesitation on Sunday. He is not free-wheeling on Sunday the way he does when he is at his best. You can see he is holding off a lot of shots – that is indicative of doubt.

“I always believe Rory plays his best when he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. That’s what I would like to see Rory coming back with on a Sunday, ‘Get out of my way, here I come’…

“I think Rory’s better when he’s got an edge about him, something to prove.”

McIlroy gets the chance to reignite that edge starting today at The Players Championship, now boasting a $12.5m prize purse – the richest tournament in golf. He features in a star-studded three ball for the first two days beside Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson, teeing off at 1.04pm Irish Time.