Saturday 17 February 2018

Rollercoaster game part of McIlroy's DNA – McGinley

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Padraig Harrington plays a shot from the rough during a practice round yesterday

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY has achieved such staggering highs and lows at golf's Major championships, that you're never altogether sure if he's going to shatter scoring records or smash a club in frustration.

McIlroy's career thus far has been marked by staggering contrasts; periods of utter genius interspersed with moments of frustration and near-despair.

Who can forget his stunning final-round meltdown at the 2011 US Masters, followed just 70 days later by McIlroy's sensational first Major championship victory in the US Open at Congressional.

Or the stark difference between his majestic march to victory and the top of the world at the US PGA in Kiawah and the 24-year-old's petulance last Sunday week at Merion, when he chucked one club and bent another, his nine-iron, completely out of shape.

McIlroy looked utterly unbeatable in Dubai last November as he romped home with five straight birdies to pip Justin Rose in the DP World Championship and emulated Luke Donald by topping the money list in Europe and the US in the same year.

Barely four months later, the Holywood native found the Champions Course at PGA National virtually unplayable.

McIlroy walked off the 18th fairway, his ninth, on Friday at the Honda Classic beaten into abject surrender by an ailing swing; a change of equipment more problematic than many – except Nick Faldo – anticipated and an aching wisdom tooth.

One can only imagine the emotional G-force this young man must endure as he plummets from heady pinnacles of achievement to grim depths.

Yet, sage words of advice offered by Padraig Harrington at Carton House yesterday almost certainly would help eliminate much of the white-knuckle factor from McIlroy's rollercoaster career and make life on Tour infinitely less stressful for the Ulsterman.

Minutes after 2012 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley insisted: "Rory's never going to be a flat-line golfer like Nick Faldo, I think it's in his DNA to be an up-and-down player and I think that's going to be part of his career for the rest of his life," Harrington heartily agreed with his fellow Dub.


"It certainly looks that way," said the three-time Major champion. "If Rory embraces and accepts that, I think there will be less of the lows and more of the consistent highs. The more he fights it, the more there will be highs and lows.

"The great thing about Rory, he's only ever one golf shot away from playing great," Harrington went on. "He's proved that numerous times in his short career.

"You only have to think back to his win at Quail Hollow in 2010, when he was missing the cut and very down on his game, then finished eagle, birdie, par to make the cut on the number and went on to win the tournament and, obviously, never looked back.

"He's had different periods like that and as long as Rory understands and accepts it, the better. The more he fights against it and looks for consistency, the harder it will be for him to get it. He just has to wait for the good weeks. I know I've said it before, but consistency is highly overrated in this game."

Inevitably, McIlroy is usually compared to Tiger Woods, but he appears more akin to Phil Mickelson in raw ability and spirit.

Though extravagantly gifted, he's not as relentless or as ruthless as Woods in his commitment to the pursuit of success. Instead, like Mickelson, McIlroy appears to have a far more balanced perspective on life.

As a result, he is unlikely ever to reach consistently the same level of performance, week-in, week-out, as Tiger. Once he comes to terms with that, McIlroy's frustrations should be eased considerably.

In Harrington's case, the phrase 'physician heal thyself' inevitably comes to mind. The 41-year-old Dubliner has vast experience and insight. So much, in fact, it seems to leave him wound-up and hand-bound. Last weekend at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, for example, he went into the final round within reach of victory after following up back-to-back 66s with a 72 in the third round, only to implode on the last day with an 80.

It did appear at TPC River Highland as if the confidence he'd found in his new belly putter surely must have been obliterated as he took, by his own reckoning, a calamitous 37 putts.

Yet with trademark resilience, Harrington's goes into tomorrow's first round of the Irish Open insisting his faith in that controversial crutch remains intact.

His problems last Sunday were founded instead on his inability to read his lines and find intermediate targets on "very yellow greens" after days of bright sunlight had made it "a tough week on the eyes."

So, Harrington simply shrugged off last Sunday's round as an aberration. "If I'd three or four of them in a row it would be different," he said, looking forward keenly to this week's challenge on the Monty Course at Carton. "There's nothing like a bad round to motivate you."

How much would McIlroy or any of us give for Harrington's overwhelming optimism.

Irish Independent

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