McIlroy yet to solve Augusta puzzle
Tendency to record one bad round ensures elusive green jacket remains out of reach
Rory McIlroy hits out of the rough off of the seventh fairway during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Photo: Chris Carlson/AP
An American writer called Dorothea Brande once made an interesting observation. “There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow,” she wrote with some degree of pragmatism.
She didn’t have golf in mind when making the point, but there’s a sense that Rory McIlroy’s relationship with Augusta National touches on it.
There’s no green jacket sitting on his shoulders just yet, even if there are greats of the game, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player among them, who feel it is only a matter of time. Surely his destiny. Surely, some time. McIlroy loves Augusta. The sight of it. The feel of it. The smell of it. But his problem with this piece of golfing heaven is in stringing four rounds together without a disaster sneaking its way onto the scorecard.
There is, it seems, always one day – one round – in a given Masters when the propensity to touch that self-destruct button comes along and, rather than hovering over it and looking for a second option, there is an inclination to push down on it.
That so-called meltdown in the final round of the 2011 Masters when his demise mirrored that infamous collapse of Greg Norman’s in 1996 is perhaps the cruellest of all indicators of this. But, each year, there have been others. A second round 77 in 2010 which saw him miss the cut. A third round 77 in 2012 than came as kick in the teeth. A third round 79 in 2013. This latest edition? Another 77, in Friday’s second round.
It’s interesting to listen to McIlroy in the aftermath of such times. You have to take your hat off to him, he stands there and self-analyses. There is no downward movement of the eyes, no seeking to hide. He takes things on the chin, doesn’t apportion blame to others. Not to his caddie JP Fitzgerald, of whom he is hugely loyal and trusting. Not to anyone; but, sometimes, some thing. The wind, for one.
On Friday, the self-destruct button was pushed on the fourth tee. With a five-wood in hand, he addressed the ball. The wind dropped as he was about to hit it. So he backed off. Then, he felt the wind again. He planned to cut the five-wood but hit it pure.
“It was all over the pin, it was just 30 yards too long . . . I got a really massive wind switch,” explained McIlroy. It was an explanation, not a complaint. These things happen.
Only, there is history. Very recent history as it turns out. In last year’s third round – a 79, remember? – McIlroy, following his round, twice referred to being caught out by the wind switching.