Another major come and gone and, for Rory McIlroy, the wait goes on.
Fifteen men have claimed majors in the time since he edged out Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler to take the PGA Championship at Valhalla and the golfing world prostrated itself at his feet.
Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka account for almost half of those but there have been four Europeans, one of them an Irishman winning the Open in Northern Ireland, in that select company and yet McIlroy is still stuck on his fourth like some sports car that can’t find top gear.
It’s not like he was nowhere at last week’s US Open.
A tie for eight and a score of six-over was no mean feat but Paul McGinley doesn’t sound all that positive about the chances of that drought ending when the world’s best assemble at Augusta National in November for a delayed hosting of the 84th Masters.
The course itself isn’t an issue. McGinley is among those who feel that the annual test in Georgia suits the former world number one but this will be the sixth time he drives down Magnolia Lane burdened by the question as to whether this will be the time he completes the game’s Grand Slam.
The other worry McGinley can’t shake is the issue of his approach play.
This was the guy who was one of the best iron players in the game statistically up until the lockdown. Post-lockdown he’s languishing about 130-odd, 140 in approach play. Augusta is a second shot golf course. It’s all about a strokes gained approach and Rory’s iron play has to improve if he’s going to compete around there.
“So he’s got two big challenges between now and then.
“I don’t believe his putting is as bad as everyone says. A lot of that is pressure-induced. He holed a lot of putts last week and after three rounds was right up there in terms of putting statistics, just outside the top 10 I believe, which is great. Then he lost a lot of ground on the last day.”
Last week at Winged Foot was, in many ways, all too typical of McIlroy on the biggest of stages in recent times.
There was some brilliant stuff, a lot of good stuff but too much iffy stuff.
Putting everything together over four days at golf’s most hallowed events remains beyond him.
McGinley didn’t actually foresee him winning that US Open due to the sometimes difficult conditions and, while the Holywood man got off to a flyer with an opening 67, he produced wildly divergent scores of 76, 68, and 75 over the course of the next three days.
“We all know how good he is on the front foot. We saw that the first round when the golf course was soft and yielding birdies and he could be aggressive when the greens were soft.” said McGinley from Galgorm Castle ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“And we saw how brilliant he was and how he took the course apart and played as well as he did.
“In fact it was a poor score for the way he played, only three-under he shot the first day and it should have been better.
“But we saw him on day two and day four when it became really windy and difficult for him and there’s gotta be a different strategy.
“Intrinsically, he’s a very aggressive player and he finds it hard to play a more defensive game, and that’s about game plan and mindset, and they’re the two areas where Rory has to improve on.”
- Allianz brand ambassador Paul McGinley will be sharing his leadership experiences alongside Jim Gavin and Stuart Lancaster at the Leaders Lounge, a Titan Experience Property proudly supported by Allianz Ireland. The virtual event takes place on November 3. Visit titan.leadersloungelive.com or more information.