Rory’s Major Mystery

SHANKS&LIPOUTS: IRC SUNDAY NEWSLETTER

After the PGA Championship, fans of Rory McIlroy were left wondering why he yet again disappointed in a major championship, and some now even believe that he might never add another to his illustrious CV.

To suggest that McIlroy is unlikely to add to his four majors is pushing it, but the talented Irishman let another one slip away considering his fast start in the PGA Championship. The normally affable McIlroy didn’t endear himself to the group of waiting media after his final round, because he stormed off without a word to those who so often sing his praises.

“Immature” was the word some used to describe his behaviour, but even making allowances for his state of mind at the time, he would do well to understand that being civil is part of his job. He could even take a leaf out of Mito Pereira’s book – the Chilean rookie had just blown what was a life-changing opportunity, yet he took the time to talk to the media and made the effort to try and explain what had just happened.

Considering that one bad drive on the 72nd hole resulting in a double-bogey had cost him a little more than $1.8 million, not to mention a king’s ransom in endorsement deals, it couldn’t have been comfortable for Pereira, but he proved himself to be a class act. One punter, professional sports bettor Rufus Peabody (who oversees data at Unabated, a stats-based sports information company), placed a $500 bet on Pereira to lift the Wannamaker trophy, which would have earned him a return of $150,000. He posted a copy of his bet together with a three-word comment: “Well, that hurt.” 

After McIlroy had simmered down a day or two after his impetuous display at Southern Hills, he told the Irish Independent that he felt that the PGA Championship was “one that got away”. Then he added: “I have to take the positives – and the fact that eighth place in a Major is absolutely the worst I feel I could’ve finished last week.” He also confirmed that he would not play in the Irish Open, which couldn’t have pleased golf fans on the Emerald Isle.

The fact is, McIlroy has not won a major since 2014, although it would not be fair to say that he has been in a slump. He did win the CJ Cup in Las Vegas last October, as well as the Wells Fargo Championship earlier in the year. Before that, he a had suffered a winless drought lasting 553 days. Of course, McIlroy has enjoyed a stellar career, but he would do well to note that he is now the oldest player ranked in the world’s top 10. At 33, he is hardly long in the tooth in golfing terms, but the longer he struggles to deliver his best golf in majors the tougher it will become.

Besides the glaringly obvious inconsistency we have seen in McIlroy’s game, many observers have pointed to his indifferent putting as being a problem. Is does strike me that while his stroke does seem sound, he appears to struggle to read greens on occasions. This may seem ridiculous considering that he shot 64 in his final round at the Augusta, but winning any tournament is about playing well for four rounds, not just after any chance of winning has slipped by. Course management is another issue, and as Jack Nicklaus so often proved, to win tournaments a player must strike a balance between aggressive and conservative play, and very often we have seen McIlroy err in this department.   

The good news is that McIlroy’s aggregate score in the first two majors of the year is lower than anyone else’s, and at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., a course that should suit him, he could well be a factor in the US Open. The bookmakers currently have him at the top of their boards at 14-1, the same price as Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler. Even if McIlroy doesn’t come to grips with this course, he will surely start as favourite at The Old Course in the 150th Open Championship.

Naturally, a week cannot go by without mention of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which has again been in the news. Firstly, the Alexandra Palace had been booked for a glitzy event to launch the first tournament and announce the players competing, hosted by Greg Norman. This week the famous venue backed out of the arrangement, presumably because of the political heat. Tickets for what was going to be a lavish bash were being sold for $1,500 and will now have to be refunded. This comes after Sean Bratches, the chief operating officer for the “rebel” series, suddenly resigned.

Bratches, who spent four years as Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, had given the Saudi-funded series some credibility, but perhaps he decided that the controversy surrounding the “sports washing” was not worth the aggravation. Norman still has one, high-profile ally in Donald Trump. The former US president has declared himself to be a staunch supporter of the big-money series. The fact that two of Trump’s golf courses have been hired to host events in the US, might just have something to do with this. – IRC.

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