Friday 22 March 2019

Sunday issues are growing for McIlroy -McGinley

Rory McIlroy plays a shot during a practice round at TPC Sawgrass ahead of the Players Championship. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy plays a shot during a practice round at TPC Sawgrass ahead of the Players Championship. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy is embracing his new-found consistency but a little March madness might be required if he's to end his Sunday blues and win The Players at TPC Sawgrass.

The Holywood star won't turn his nose up at another final-group appearance in the first March staging of The Players since 2006.

Despite his denials, he most certainly does have a problem when it comes to closing out big events from the final group, enduring nine successive disappointments in just 13 months.

While he's trailed by three shots or more in five of those nine events, he's failed to impose himself like the McIlroy of old and averaged a timid 71 in those closing rounds.

"There's a hesitation on Sundays," Paul McGinley observed yesterday.

"You can see by the way he's playing, holding off shots. That's indicative of doubt."

Believing the frustration is building for McIlroy, McGinley added: "Golf is about winning and there is no doubt he's got an issue on a Sunday. And it's growing."

The four-time Major winner has proved many times that he has the stomach for battle but for McGinley, he lacks his trademark strut of confidence.

"Is it a question of guile? No. He's proved it and won big tournaments in the past. But he's lost his confidence when it comes down to the last day," McGinley said.

"Rory, more than anyone else I know, is an inspirational player. And when he gets inspired, he's great. But he hasn't had that inspiration on Sundays."

Now a married man, McIlroy admits he's been reading a lot of consciousness books and talks frequently these days of the "big picture" and his "journey".

"It's not the sexy answer, that I haven't been making as many bogeys, but that's part of the reason I've been consistent," McIlroy said of his five successive top-six finishes to start the season.

"I've just been more patient and let rounds build and I've not got antsy or tried to push the envelope if I am one-over after nine.

"What I have done over the last five tournaments is they have all been little building blocks towards where I want to be... I may never get to that place, but it's a continuous journey on that path."

Threatened

With Sawgrass overseeded with ryegrass, the course will be less fiery than it was in May. But it's a fiery McIlroy that needs to turn up if he's to contend on a course where he's had three top-10s in nine starts but never threatened to win.

Ranked 194th for putting from 10 to 15 feet, making just 22.22pc in that range compared to Francesco Molinari's 47.7pc, it's time for the ruthless McIlroy of old to make an appearance with four weeks to go to the Masters.

"When he plays his best, he plays like Tiger Woods," former Masters champion Trevor Immelman said yesterday, pointing the fingers at McIlroy's fuzzy course management.

"The problem with Rory is that we just don't see it that often."

Woods will relish the tactical challenge of Sawgrass where Molinari, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are also fancied to shine.

As for Shane Lowry, he can look back fondly on the first two rounds in 2016 as he bids to get back to the form that saw him win the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and put disappointing performances in the WGC-Mexico Championship and last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational behind him.

The Clara man covered the back nine in a tournament-record 29 in an opening 65, then added a 68 in the second round to go into the weekend tied for second, only to slip to 16th over the weekend.

Seamus Power makes his debut, not wondering about his nine missed cuts in 11 starts but feeling fortunate to be teeing it up in one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

On the European Tour, Portmarnock Links' Robin Dawson makes his first appearance of 2019 in the Magical Kenya Open alongside Michael Hoey and Gavin Moynihan at Karen Country Club in Nairobi.

Qatar Masters winner Justin Harding, who's now 52nd in the world and chasing a spot in next month's Masters, is seeking back-to-back wins on the European Tour having pulled off the feat on the both the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour last year.

Kenya Open, Live

Sky Sports, 8.0am

Players Championship, Live

Sky Sports, 5.0pm

Indo Sport

The Left Wing: Why Irish fans shouldn't lose faith and how Joe Schmidt can turn things around for the World Cup

In association with Aldi

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport