When all the social media chatter around Rory McIlroy is about the annoying frequency of his TV commercial for a watch company, you know it has not been the most impactful of weeks in America for the Irishman.
McIlroy was on US screens more often than his PGA Championship performance merited, his Script-soundtracked sales pitch as he fired a golf ball towards Dubai skyscrapers playing in every single ad break.
The song suggested he may have been standing in the hall of fame but back at Whistling Straits his play was not up to those levels, as a 17th-place finish indicated.
Yet there was a lot to take from his week in Wisconsin, despite the fact that it ended with the four-time major champion losing his status as world number one to tournament runner-up Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy’s final-round 69 moved him to nine-under-par for the championship, 11 shots adrift of the year’s final major champion Jason Day, but the 26-year-old left for a two-week break ahead of the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, starting September 4, in a positive mood.
Nor was he simply cheered that his left ankle had come through a rigourous examination just five weeks after he ruptured a ligament and injured the joint capsule during a football kickabout, though it needs continuing rehab.
He was also pleased with his ball-striking, though his putting and short game were less than convincing at times last week, an issue he put down to a lack of competitive sharpness before insisting that maintaining excellent ball-striking remained his top priority.
“Yeah, that’s the foundation of my game. That’s what I base my game on. You have to keep your strengths, and chip away at your weaknesses,” McIlroy said following his final round. “That’s the philosophy I’ve always taken with this game.
“You can look at some examples over the years, where (golfers) have gotten away from their strengths and tried to improve their weaknesses and it hasn’t really happened for them.
“So I think ball-striking-wise, that’s always going to be the foundation of my game, and if I can think of that as strong as possible, and chip away at the other stuff, I’m going to be okay.”
Golf at this level, as McIlroy well knows, is a game of fine margins and in relation to the new champion Day and runner-up Spieth, he lagged in several key statistics, most notably putting where both his rivals gained strokes (Day was +1.285 and Spieth +0.904) and he gave them up (-0.633).
McIlroy also lagged in his Greens in Regulation percentage, 70.83 to Spieth’s 75.00 and Day’s 76.39.
“I just need to sharpen up,” McIlroy said. “I feel like ball-striking-wise, tee to green, it’s there. And it’s sort of been there all year.
“If anything, just around the greens and being more efficient, really — when I give myself opportunities inside, wedges in my hand, got to take advantage of those.
“And today is a prime example, it’s my fourth day of competitive playing, getting those two balls up and down on 17 and 18, that’s something just playing a bit more and just having experience with certain shots and certain lies.
“That all just comes with playing a bit more.
“Maybe at the start of the week, those last two holes I wouldn’t have got those balls up and down, but playing a bit more you just become more comfortable with those type of shots.”
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