Thursday 22 August 2019

McIlroy ready for some serious soul-searching after another letdown

Rory McIlroy Photo: Getty
Rory McIlroy Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy closed with a roller-coaster round that matched his Major season and confessed that he may sit out the first FedEx Cup event to do some soul-searching after seeing his Major drought extend to four years.

The 29-year-old Holywood star finished fifth in the Masters, then missed the cut in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills before coming home tied for second behind Francesco Molinari in The Open.

But while a rain-softened Bellerive Country Club looked tailor-made for his game, he was wayward all week and ended up making up the numbers on two-under after a closing 70 that could have been a 75 but for some miraculous short game play.

"It's been a year where I've shown glimpses of what I can do, but I just haven't done it often enough," a dejected McIlroy said.

"It's the Major season over and we have to wait a few months to the next one, but there's still a lot of golf to play this year and quite a bit to play for.

"There's a lot of room for improvement. My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year, but it's sort of regressed as the season has went on. You start to fall back into some of the habits you don't want to."

McIlroy found three water hazards and just four fairways in yesterday's final round and while he was first for driving distance, he was 77th for driving accuracy and 45th for putting.

Weakness

"I've missed the ball right and left and that's been the real weakness," he said. "You stand up on a tee shot and it would be nice to know you can eliminate one side of the golf course and this year I haven't felt like that.

"I feel like I've put the work in. It's not like I've been sitting on my ass and not doing anything. I've given myself chances and just haven't quite played the golf I've needed to whenever it's been called upon.

"I need to assess where I'm at. I think the best thing for me to do right now is take a couple of days off and reflect on what I need to do going forward.

"The best thing might be to take that first FedEx Cup week off and work on my game and hopefully come back in a better place.

"I'll do some practice this week and see if I feel ready to go there and play five out of six weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup."

Asked how he would remember the Majors in 2018, McIlroy added: "I probably won't. I don't think there was anything all that memorable about it. I guess I had two chances, but I didn't really contend the back nine at Augusta.

"I didn't get myself into contention in 2017."

McIlroy had a truly up-and-down final round to match his season in the Majors, incurring no fewer than four penalty strokes as he hit just three fairways on a hot and sticky morning at Bellerive.

Playing with Frenchman Michael Lorenzo Vera, he found water with his tee-shot at the second to drop a shot, but then holed an outrageous 50-footer at the fourth and a 14-footer at the next to get back into the red.

He was dropping again shortly afterwards when he came up short and trickled back into the pond at the 213-yard sixth, but got up and down from 126 yards, holing a 12-footer for his bogey.

He was in trouble again at the par-five eighth, where his tee shot sailed left and ricocheted off a tree, 60 yards back down a cart path and rifled his escape through the fairway into the lateral hazard.

He got up and down from 115 yards for par, then chipped in at the ninth to go out in one-under.

The fireworks show continued at the 294-yard 11th, where he went for the green but hooked his driver so far left that it caromed around in the crowd, rocketing into flower beds from where he had to take his fourth penalty drop of the round.

Again he got up and down for par, but the finish summed up his week.

After missing a four-footer for par at the 15th, he birdied the par-five 17th before another hooked tee shot ended up on a cart path at the 18th and after his fifth drop of the day - this time a free one - he came up short of the green and a missed a seven-footer for par.

If he skips the first FedEx Cup playoff, the Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, he will have a fortnight before the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston to regroup.

With 241 days to go to the Masters, it's going to be a long winter for the County Down man.

Irish Independent

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