If Rory McIlroy was still at school, then his report card after yesterday’s disastrous round of 77 would simply have said: Must try harder.
You see, with all of his pre-tournament preparation done, an in-form McIlroy had no excuses.
Sure, he may well have moaned back in the press centre about getting a little too steep on his transition down in the swing, which caused the ball to fly right of his target line all day long or that his putting simply wasn’t good enough.
But the experienced McIlroy should still have been able to find a solution to the problems he faced on the course, so that he could realise his first priority, that of staying competitive.
Instead, it seems that with three rounds left to play, the four-time major champion will simply be making up the numbers this week.
In his short career to date, McIlroy has been defined by great moments of triumph but if he is ever to realise his full potential, then he simply must learn from yesterday’s chastening experience.
No one will argue here with McIlroy’s pedigree or his guts under pressure, but he has to learn that in time, when his greatness is being defined by the number of major championships that he has won, he will look back at occasions like yesterday, when his game was off and the battle was pitched against him, and ask, did he really manage his swing on the golf course or indeed his course strategy well enough? Did he shoulder enough of the burden to keep himself competitive?
It seems not.
In the world of professional golf, it might be surprising for some to learn that the player rarely has everything under control, so it is essential that they can self-correct their actions on the course.
That may be a simple swing thought or perhaps even reverting to a safe “stock” shot.
It may also mean the ability to demonstrate greater patience, to think more clearly under pressure and, most importantly, to work even harder when you are playing poorly than when you are playing well.
Great players always find some form of solution.
In his prime, the great Tiger Woods found a way to dominate the game of golf, despite the fact that he was at best a very average driver of the ball.
In fact, he won his 14th and last major championship, a US Open, on one leg, playing with what turned out to be a double stress fracture of his left tibia as well as a torn ACL after a 19-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate.
Such is McIlroy’s talent that he must now find a way to fulfil all of his potential, regardless of his form, and if he truly wants to be recognised as a great champion, then he still has much to do given that he will be continually competing against the very best in the game over golf courses that are never really fair.
With four major championships under his belt, McIlroy is already further down the road than most, but in time, if he wants to be considered in the same conversation as the likes of Nicklaus and Woods, then he must raise his game, embracing every challenge along the way head-on.
Right now, he has one major competitive advantage and that is that he is not competing against too many other players in the game that have won multiple major championships.
That’s a huge advantage, especially when you are coming down the stretch against players who are trying to win one for the first time.
If only he were first in the position to be able to do so come tomorrow afternoon, that is.
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