It’s now been over a year since twenty-eight year-old Rory McIlroy has won a golf tournament on the European Tour. And more importantly, after missing consecutive cuts during his prep for the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale next week, it doesn’t appear things are getting better anytime soon.
It’s been a busy year for the world’s number four golfer since his last two wins on the PGA Tour at the Deutsche Bank and Tour Championship in 2016, with injury problems, equipment changes and a new bride, one has to wonder if he has allocated enough time and attention to his short game and in particular, his putting stroke.
Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post reported on Saturday that after missing the cut at Dundonald Links late Friday, Rory remained optimistic that he could go to Royal Birkdale and find some sort of spark in his game ahead of next week’s Open.
“Rory keeps telling us he’s almost there,’’ Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open winner at Birkdale and current CBS analyst, told The Post. “With the Birkdale greens a little bit slower, that might help him. There might not be as much pressure on his putting as there is at the other majors.’’
It’s been three missed cuts in his last four outings, including consecutive two in a row at the Irish Open and Scottish Open this week.
The culprit appears to be short-game woes from 150 yards in and a lot of putts that won’t fall.
We all remember the problems when Rory made the switch to Nike at the beginning of the 2013 season, and one has to wonder if we are seeing a repeat of that disaster as he has made the switch to TaylorMade in the wake of Nike’s departure from the golf club industry at the end of the 2016 Season.
Rory announced at TPC Sawgrass ahead of the Players Championship that he was signing a long-term endorsement contract with TaylorMade,
Since the Nike announcement in August of 2016, Rory had played with Callaway and TaylorMade equipment and had settled on TaylorMade.
“I wasn’t really happy with the golf ball I was playing, and I needed to do something,” McIlroy said during his press conference Tuesday at the Players Championship. “I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta. (I) worked with a lot of different things, but I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on TrackMan (launch monitor) on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball, that new TP5x ball that they have. I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I need.’ This is exactly the thing that I’ve been struggling with, and this is, I feel, what I need.”
Rory logged four top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour prior to the Players Championship, including a T7 at Augusta. After the switch, a T35 at Sawgrass, missed cut at the U.S. Open before a T17 at the Travelers.
The numbers on his PGA Tour stats seem to support a lack of attention to his short game, and include tournaments before and after the switch to Taylormade.
Rory McIlroy is not the only top player who is struggling as we get ready for the Open Championship next week, but Rory is not an excuse maker and like most golfers, is convinced that the he’s just one practice session away from putting it all together.
“I think it’s fair to say I’m trying to stay patient, but it’s proving difficult,” he said. “It always has been for me. Because look, I feel like I am good enough to win these tournaments, and I’ve shown that before. And as I keep saying it, I don’t feel like my game is that far away.
“There is still plenty of time to salvage the season. But I’d rather see that happen sooner, rather than later.”
We’ll see! The 146th Open Championship tees off early Thursday morning from Royal Birkdale!