Rory’s demons must be embraced after family

PRIVATE jets carrying Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy passed over the skies of the Middle East yesterday.

Harrington was on his way to China where he was planning a holiday with his family while also taking in the Volvo Open in Chungdu.

McIlroy was heading home to Holywood, Co Down, for a few well-earned days of rest after a couple of weeks in the United States and Malaysia that will live in his memory.

In spite of his trauma at the Masters and failure to cling on to a three-stroke advantage at the Malaysian Open, McIlroy probably wasn’t concerned because he improved two places in the world rankings from ninth to seventh.

As he pointed out, to lead the Masters going into the final nine holes is some achievement when he’s a few months short of his 22nd birthday. And to rebound from a potentially shattering final round to go within two shots of winning in Malaysia proved he’s made of the right stuff.

It’s not suggesting that McIlroy doesn’t have demons to face. No golfer, young or old, could shrug off the effects of the Masters without a deal of soul searching.

He insisted he will learn from the experience and become a better golfer and person. For that though, he needs to look deep inside himself to know exactly what happened and have the ability to rectify the situation.

That’s the mental side of the equation which is probably more important than coping with whatever may be wrong with his game.

There’s few better or more natural swingers of a golf club. He hits the ball for miles off the tee and is a beautiful iron player. There are flaws, however, not least a tendency to hook the ball when the pressure is on. The disastrous drive off the 10th tee at Augusta proved that point.

His manager Chubby Chandler argues that McIlroy isn’t a poor putter, that it’s more a case of hitting the ball consistently to 12 or 15 feet and not every putt finds the target from that range. Chandler’s argument is open to debate but McIlroy’s work with the blade even before the debacle of the back nine was not convincing.

THERE are people out there who can help. Phil Mickelson has worked with the putting guru Dave Pelz. If one of the greatest exponents of the short game we’ve ever seen feels it wise to retain an adviser, who is Rory to argue?

Perhaps he should get help from a sports psychologist. Harrington worked with Dr Bob Rotella for many years and is constantly singing his praises. Some may argue that Harrington hasn’t done a whole lot of late but Rotella could hardly have been closer to the action when Pádraig made the big breakthrough in the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007. And he was still around when the claret jug was retained in 2008 along with the US PGA Championship.

It’s a receding memory and with the exception of a relatively minor tournament in Malaysia last year, Harrington has been winless since, dropping another two spots to 38th in the world rankings yesterday.

Pádraig and wife Caroline are taking advantage this week of the Easter school break to bring their sons Paddy and Ciaran on holiday to China.

A visit to the Great Wall will be a highlight before moving on to the Luxehills International Country Club for the Chinese Open, where the other Irish in the field are Gareth Maybin, Peter Lawrie, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey.

Graeme McDowell, who is back to fifth in the world having swapped places with Tiger Woods, returns to action in The Heritage tournament on the US Tour on Thursday. Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari also tee it up in South Carolina.

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