McIlroy’s show of petulance may lead to a fine

World number two mangles golf club on his way to a quadruple bogey eight in a round of 76

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during a forgettable fourth round at the US Open at Merion Golf Club. Photograph: Darron Cummings/Inpho

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during a forgettable fourth round at the US Open at Merion Golf Club. Photograph: Darron Cummings/Inpho


The drumbeat had always seemed to be up-tempo, a positive sign of the glass half-full mentality. In this 113th US Open in the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia, though, Rory McIlroy allowed the barrier to slip: on Saturday, he talked of a lack of confidence, of his search for fluidity.

For just a moment, the rhythm/the beat/the seamlessness, was out of sync. It was only a hint of what was to follow.

On Sunday, in the final round, McIlroy’s on-course behaviour went completely haywire with a number of shows of petulance, one of which resulted in a broken club – when he pushed a wedge into the 11th fairway here at Merion and buckled the shaft – for which his angst is likely to lead to a fine.

This latest Major outing for McIlroy promised so much but ended with a 76 and a 14-over-par total. The omens were good, almost perfect. A soft course, one that fit the eye. Throwbacks to his Major breakthrough win in record-breaking fashion in the 2011 US Open at Congressional. It offered reminders of his runaway win in the US PGA at Kiawah Island. When it mattered, it delivered so little.

There were times McIlroy found himself on a bogey train with no way of getting off. In the first round, he bogeyed three of the last four holes; on Saturday, he signed for no fewer than seven. And, in Sunday’s final round, his lack of consistency was immediately evident when he bogeyed the third and double-bogeyed the fifth where the darker side of McIlroy was evidenced after a poor approach resulted in him throwing his club towards his bag in frustration.  

Worse to follow
Oh boy, worse was to follow. Much worse. On the 11th, after driving into Cobb’s Creek, McIlroy was handed a wedge to play his third shot. By the time it was handed back to his caddie JP Fitzgerald, the shaft was mangled.

Having dunked the ball into the water for a second time, McIlroy leaned down on the club and the shaft bent into an imitation of the snake that Lee Trevino had wiggled at Jack Nicklaus all those years ago. McIlroy can expect a fine for his show of petulance in bending the shaft, the quadruple bogey eight which followed being almost an irrelevance.

Down and out, McIlroy took out his frustrations on one of the tools that came as part of the multi-million dollar package that saw him sign up with Nike earlier in the year.

This is not the McIlroy who blazed a trail in his Major wins, or sprinted to the world number-one spot in the second-part of last year when his US PGA triumph was the catalyst for a truly phenomenal closure to the season that saw him dominate the US Tour (following up the PGA win with successes in the FedEx Cup series’ Deutsche Bank championship and BMW championship) and close out his money-topping year on the European Tour with victory in the Dubai World championship.  

More difficult
Where once the task of getting a ball into the hole seemed, if not easy, at least easier than anyone else managed; for McIlroy – especially in the Majors – that undertaking has in recent times become more difficult.

Ben Hogan, it was, who once observed: “I never learned anything from a match I won.” In other words, you learn more from losing. And unfortunately for McIlroy, that cycle has become an extended lesson. It is one he must learn from; although the displays of petulance evident in the final round would indicate that dark clouds are circling him. Where will it all end?

McIlroy’s form has seen him go winless on tour since he captured that European Tour-ending championship in Dubai last November.

He has failed to win since, and has been overtaken by Tiger Woods in the world rankings. Form is temporary, class is permanent, and McIlroy will certainly return. But he is going through some tough times.