Tuesday 16 January 2018

Fatigue has knocked the sparkle out of Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy discusses his options with his caddie JP Fitzgerald during his final round at The Barclays in New Jersey. Photo: Darren Carroll/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy discusses his options with his caddie JP Fitzgerald during his final round at The Barclays in New Jersey. Photo: Darren Carroll/Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

Rory McIlroy appeared invincible as he stormed to two Major titles and a first victory at a World Golf Championship in four astonishing weeks. Over the weekend at The Barclays, however, the 25-year-old just looked flat.

McIlroy went into yesterday’s final round at Ridgewood Country Club, pledging to go on the attack. However, his hopes of launching a Sunday charge up the leaderboard were undermined by uncharacteristic error during a tepid final-round 70 that left him just outside the top 20 on five-under.

For all the promise of the stunning six-under par 65 last Friday which repaired any damage caused by McIlroy’s opening 74, a weekend off might have been better for the World No 1, especially with three more FedEx play-offs in quick succession.

With the Deutsche Bank Championship not due to start until next Friday, McIlroy at least will have a precious extra day’s rest before teeing it up at TPC Boston, where he won in 2012.

McIlroy denied after Saturday’s one-under par 70 that tiredness was a factor, insisting: “I feel pretty fresh.”

Instead, he cited his putting, saying: “I’ve just struggled a little bit the with speed on the greens this week.”

He had to wait six holes yesterday before managing to get a birdie putt to drop. That opportunity was set up by a monster 344-yard drive and short-iron. Yet even when his eight-footer at six disappeared into the cup, McIlroy still lacked the usual sparkle.

An ugly double-bogey five at 10 bore all the hallmarks of fatigue, especially as it included a second poor shot out of a greenside bunker in five holes.

After missing birdie putts of various lengths on the next five, McIlroy looked like a world-beater once again at 16 as he hammered his drive 353 yards into the left semi-rough, hit a 76-yard pitch to nine feet and drained the putt. He then followed up with a birdie four out of a greenside trap at 17.

Any frustration Graeme McDowell felt as he slipped from two-under through eight holes yesterday to post a one-over 72 evaporated as he looked forward to travelling to the maternity hospital in Orlando this morning with wife Kristin for the birth of their first child, a daughter. The Portrush man, who played his 72 holes in three-under, resumes playing in next Thursday week’s BMW.

Lee Westwood’s FedEx Cup race is run. He didn’t make the 100-strong field in the Deutsche Bank. A final-round 70 left him on the lower half of the leaderboard  on even-par. His case for a wild card from Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has been stated.

Hunter Mahan won the Barclays by two shots from Stuart Appleby, Cameron Tringale and Jason Day on 14-under after a sizzling final-round 65, despite a wobble on the last. Playing the 18th with a three-shot lead, he sent his drive right into trees, had to chip out, then pulled his pitch into a greenside rough. Day, though, failed the birdie the par-five 17th, and Mahan held his nerve to get up and down for a winning bogey.

Mahan’s victory leapfrogged him above McIlroy in the race for the FedEx Cup.

Jamie Donaldson copper-fastened a first-class ticket to the Ryder Cup by coming from behind to beat fellow Welshman Bradley Wedge by two at the Czech Masters with an assured four-under-par 68.

A third European Tour title to go with Donaldson’s wins at the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush and in  Abu Dhabi last year was nicely timed for Paul McGinley as the skipper marshals his forces for Gleneagles next month. After this fillip the powerful 39-year-old will be an upbeat partner for any European team-mate in Scotland.

Donaldson’s €166,660 first prize in Prague guaranteed him the fourth and final qualifying spot on the European points list. Sergio Garcia now makes it on his tally of world ranking points, so McDowell retained the ninth and final automatic spot in that category with just one counting event remaining, next weekend’s Italian Open.


Trailing Dredge by two overnight, Donaldson took command with a hat-trick of birdies on the first three holes. Soren Kjeldsen nipped in front with his third birdie in four holes at the sixth, then slipped up twice on the way to the turn. A closing 71 left the Dane tied third with Merrick Bremner of South Africa on 11-under, one behind Dredge, whose 72 included a lovely chip-in birdie at 14.

Kevin Phelan (23) boosted his prize-money from 20 tournaments in his rookie season to €101,388 after earning ¤10,100 as Ireland’s top-finisher in a tie for 23rd on three-under following a closing 71 in Prague.

The rising Waterford star is 146th in the Race to Dubai, 30 outside the 110 who’ll retain their cards at year’s end.

Damien McGrane banked €3,438 in 52nd on even-par after a final-round 71. Peter Lawrie finished with a share of 60th and a cheque for €2,400 after a 72 left him at one-over, while Gareth Maybin was 79th on five-over (worth €1,474) when he too shot 72.

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