Another barren Major season passes Rory McIlroy by
His USPGA final round had a little bit of everything, but very little of what he wanted
Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Time for reflection, for Rory McIlroy. Another season - in the Majors - gone, his final round of this 100th US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club provided a cruel microcosm of his vain quest to end a drought: there were water balls, drives into trees, long birdie putts, hole-outs. A little bit of everything, but very little of what he wanted.
McIlroy was finished his playing interest far too soon, certainly for his liking. A crazy old round, it was. He signed for a 70 for a total of two-under-par 268 but that simple score told nothing of the story: he was three times (yes, three) in water hazards on the front nine and, when all was said and done, he looked like a man in need of a rest.
“I need to assess where I am at. I think the best thing for me to do right now is to take a couple of days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward,” said McIlroy.
Part of that plan going forward will likely see him miss the first of the FedEx Cup tournaments, the Northern Trust in New Jersey. “Historically, the first FedEx Cup playoff event has not been my best event of the four. I have played well in Boston, I have played pretty well in the other two (Dell Technologies and Tour Championship) so we will see how I feel. I’ll do some practice this week and see if I am ready to go there and play,” said McIlroy.
The disappointment was etched across his face, with little attempt to gloss over it. Even titbits of optimism about having contended in a couple of Majors were declined. “I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it. I had one good chance (at Carnoustie), I guess I had two but I didn’t really contend the back nine at Augusta. I mean, I gave myself two chances. I wanted to give myself chances and get into contention. I didn’t get into contention in ‘17, don’t think I did in’ 16, so I guess it has been a positive from that standpoint.”
McIlroy hasn’t seen the inside of a gym in the past two months yet has added yardage to this driving statistics by adding three to four miles an hour ball speed. He can’t figure that one out. But it is the swing that is out of kilter, not the rhythmic one that led to four career Majors between 2011 and 2014. The last of those Major wins came in the PGA at Valhalla, the drought now four years and set to move into a fifth.
“There is a lot of room for improvement as really my swing hasn’t been where I would want it to be. At the start of the year I had a couple of months to work on it but it sort has regressed as the season has moved on and when you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits you don’t want to fall back into.
“Then that’s just been inconsistent as I’ve missed the ball right and I’ve also missed the ball left and I haven’t taken one side of the golf course out of play, and that’s been my real weakness as you stand up on a tee shot and it would be nice to know you can eliminate one side of the golf course and this year I have not felt like that.
“So inconsistency with my swing has been the big area as you look at my statistics, and especially with regard ‘approach play’ and my irons . . . and even though my driving has been okay there’s been a two-way miss with everything throughout the bag and that is clearly not a good thing and that is something I need to work on.”
Time for reflection, for sure. However, still with a lot of golf ahead, just not in the Majors. “It’s been a year where there has been glimpses of showing what I can do but I just haven’t done it often enough, I guess.It’s the major season over and we’ve got to wait a few months for the next one but there is still a lot of golf to play this year and still quite a bit to play for.”