Rory McIlroy confident he can turn his year around
He may have been runner-up in the Texas Open earlier this year, but his tied-eighth finish in the final Major constituted his best performance of the season
Rory McIlroy during Sunday’s final round of the US PGA Championship. Photograph: Rob Carr/Getty Images
When Rory McIlroy exited the men’s locker-room at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday evening, it wasn’t so much with a bounce in his step but the need to get to the car park and drive on to a waiting flight. Yet, for the 24-year-old Ulsterman, there was – finally – some acknowledgement, results-wise, that what he has been saying all along about his game being in “great shape” isn’t so far off the mark.
A somewhat unlucky triple bogey aside, when the vagaries of spin and slope took his ball into a rocky water hazard on the fifth hole of his final round, McIlroy’s eventual tied-eighth finish constituted his best performance of the season. He may have been runner-up in the Texas Open earlier this year, but this – coming in a Major – has greater relevance.
“There’s still enough golf ahead of me this year to turn it into a very good year,” said McIlroy, who reappears next week in the Barclays championship, the first of the US Tour’s FedEx Cup playoff series. “I have four very big weeks coming up to try and finish the PGA Tour season well. I’ve also got a few events out in Asia, so I’ve got plenty of opportunity to round off my year on a good note.”
McIlroy is currently 46th on the FedEx Cup standings and will need to maintain upward momentum if he is to get all the way to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where that $10 million winner’s prize will be up for grabs to whoever tops the playoffs.
Graeme McDowell – who is in 27th place in the FedEx Cup table – will also be returning to action in the Barclays and is currently in a stronger position to make it all the way to Atlanta, when only the top 30 after the BMW( in Conway Farms, Illinois) make it to the Tour Championship finale.
G-Mac will be a busy man in the coming months. “I’m looking forward to the play-offs, looking forward to getting married (in September). I’ll take four weeks off and the first time I’ll tee it up as a married man will be at the BMW in Shanghai,” he said.
McDowell will play two events in China, but skip out on the Turkish Airlines championship, before finishing his European Tour season in the Dubai World championship where the Race to Dubai concludes. He is currently second behind Henrik Stenson in those standings.
In spite of securing a top-12 finish in the US PGA to close out his Majors’ season, McDowell observed that it was “a disappointing year” and added, “to take the four Majors holistically, for me it’s a bad performance. It’s difficult to prime yourself to come and perform at these. They’re such a tough test. I won the week after the Masters and two weeks after the US Open; sometimes you’re over-prepared and maybe put a little too much expectation on yourself and when you do let the pressure valve release you play great the week after or two weeks after. It’s hard.”
And in terms of his overall performances in the Majors? “I’d give myself a C-plus,” said the 2010 US Open champion. “I’ve a lot of room for improvement. I’m getting better all the time, learning from my experiences.
“I certainly have a huge amount of belief in myself that I can win one more of these at least , maybe more and just continuing learning really. It’s just a process and yeah, I’ll look back at the end of the year as a disappointing Major championship year but I’ll learn from the mistakes I’ve made this year and I won’t make those mistakes again.”
When informed that Pádraig Harrington had made the observation that McDowell was one of those first-time Major winners who seemed to have kicked-on in their careers, he responded: “That’s a nice compliment from a three-time Major champion. This is a hard game. The golf ball doesn’t know how many Majors you’ve won. It’s still a difficult game, expectations from within are the killer, really. It doesn’t really matter what the fans think or what you guys think or what they’ve said about you on TV, it really is pressure that comes from within that’s the killer. I’ve learned from that and managed to deal with it.”
Harrington, meanwhile, will seek to bounce back from two successive missed cuts when he competes in this week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. The 41-year-old Dubliner’s participation in the Barclays is at stake. Currently 129th, with the top 125 getting their tickets to the following week’s Barclays at Liberty National in New Jersey, Harrington needs to claim some precious FedEx Cup points to extend his season on the US Tour.