Sunday 18 February 2018

Don't write off misfiring Rory yet

McIlroy has class to snap out of slump in blink of an eye

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the final round of the Memorial Tournament
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the final round of the Memorial Tournament

Karl McGinty

IT'S that time of year again ... when that plaintive cry 'what's wrong with Rory?' echoes around the world's fairways. If there's anything consistent about McIlroy's career in recent seasons, it's been his inconsistency, especially in early to mid-summer.

Missing the cut at the BMW PGA Championship and his hit-and-miss performance as he scraped through to the final two rounds at Memorial hardly inspired confidence in his prospects of playing all 72 holes at next week's US Open, especially given the 24-year-old's recent problem hitting fairways and greens and holing short putts.

Merion is one of the shortest, tightest and, if the sun shines in Philadephia, likely to be one of the most harum-scarum US Open venues in recent memory.

REALITY

Yet, after so many head-spinning, white-knuckle rides from McIlroy in recent years, perhaps we are all in danger of losing touch with reality. It certainly is a long way down from the Himalayan peaks of his final four months in 2012 to his current level of performance.

However, McIlroy's fall from grace this season is by no means as bad as several of his peers in golf's professional elite ... and the Holywood native is so naturally gifted he's capable of going from the pits to fresh peaks in the blink of an eye.

No question, the sport's official world rankings are misleading. With points awarded on a sliding scale over the previous two years, they often bear no relation to current form.

Though still No 2 behind Tiger Woods in the standings issued yesterday, McIlroy (below) is nowhere near being the second best player on the planet right now.

That 'honour' instead clearly belongs to Matt Kuchar, who joined No 1 Woods as the only multiple winner on the US Tour this season last Sunday when he added the Memorial title to his success at February's Accenture Match Play.

Kuchar has won just over 222 world points in 2013. Brandt Snedeker, who followed back-to-back runner-up finishes at Torrey Pines and Phoenix by winning at Pebble Beach, is next highest with 146, just one ahead of Masters champion Adam Scott.

World points gained is probably the simplest and the best way to gauge current performance on the world stage, as opposed to the two-year average used for the official rankings.

Graeme McDowell, with two tournament wins and three other top-10 finishes counter-balancing his four missed cuts in his 10 events in 2013, is best of the Irish at sixth with 128.928 in the 'points earned' table.

That's more than twice as many as McIlroy, whose 62.981 points place him 44th in worldwide performance this year. That may be low by McIlroy's lofty standards but by far exceeds the pithy efforts of Paul Lawrie (18.239 points) and several other of his exalted colleagues on the European Ryder Cup team at Medinah.

If Lawrie is 'Top of the Flops' in 2013, Francesco Molinari, Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Ian Poulter, and Martin Kaymer are not that far behind the off-colour Scot, in a chart which features several of America's recent Ryder Cup side. Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk all give different meaning to the term 'Dufnering' with their performance on the golf course this season, while Luke Donald, Bubba Watson and Ernie Els are among the many players trailing McIlroy in the performance stakes in 2013.

Incidentally, in gauging the 'Top of the Flops' chart, only players who had access to the elite top 50 this year were considered because only they enjoyed access to the points-rich World Golf Championships and the US Masters.

Certainly, McIlroy's form has been inconsistent and his confidence undermined by a myriad of factors, ranging from his equipment change to an irregular tournament and (one suspects) practice schedule.

Merion is the last place to go looking for one's 'A' game but McIlroy's is not quite as far away as some round scores and headlines would lead you to believe.

Irish Independent

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