What do the Statistics Tell us About Rory McIlroy?
Rory McIlroy turns 30 in 2019. It is almost five years since the most recent of his four major championship victories and he attracted plenty of headlines when stating that he was considering not maintaining his membership of the European Tour. However, there is a perception that McIlroy is not the player he was and it is certainly true that he is no longer the winning machine that he once was. He has developed an unfortunate habit of playing himself into contention after 54 holes, only to fade away in the final round. He did it at The Masters in 2018 and he was at it again during the final round of the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, the first PGA Tour event of 2019.
So has he really become a worse golfer? McIlroy first made his mark on the PGA Tour in 2010, and we thought it might be educational to take a look at how his statistics have changed over the years.
Back in 2010 he averaged 300 yards from the tee, hitting 62% of fairways, which left him in 115th place in terms of accuracy. He hit 66% of greens in regulation, putting him 120th. He averaged 3.44 birdies per round for 121st place. Hardly earth shattering. His scoring average was 70.351. And when it came to sand saves, he was able to get up and down just 52.48% of the time.
Let’s move on to 2011, which was the year he won the US Open. He increased his driving distance to 307 yards but missed even more fairways, hitting just 60%. He hit 68.4% of greens in regulation and averaged 3.77 birdies per round while getting up and down from the sand just 43.55% of the time. However, he did break the 70 barrier for the first time when it came to his scoring average, with 69.479.
What about 2012? By now he was hitting it 310.1 yards from the tee, which put him in fifth place. But McIlroy was hitting just 56.61% of fairways, putting him in 156th place in the accuracy stakes. He struck 66.36% of greens in regulation and averaged 4.8 birdies per round. His scoring average was now 68.873 and his sand-save percentage improved to 56.16%.
And so we head into 2013 when, strangely, his driving distance fell to 302.2 yards but he was still only able to find 58% of the fairways. He hit 65.45% of greens in regulation and averaged 3.93 birdies per round as his scoring average increased to 70.288. And in 2013 his sand-save percentage fell to 43.33%.
Surely there had to be some improvement in 2014? Yes there was. He averaged 310 yards from the tee - only two players did better. But he continued to struggle with his accuracy, finding 59.93% from the tee. He found almost 70% of greens in regulation, which was good enough for sixth place. McIlroy averaged 4.58 birdies - nobody did better. And he also topped the scoring average with 68.827 but continued to struggle from green side bunkers, getting up and down just 47.50%, which left him in 123rd place.
Once again there was a tail-off in his average driving distance in 2015, when he managed 304 yards, hitting 67.69% of fairways but finding 71.03% of greens in regulation. McIlroy averaged 4.14 birdies per round, had a scoring average of 69.320 and a sand-save percentage of 56.34%.
In 2016 his driving distance was back up to 306.8 yards and he found 61.06% of fairways, which left him in 77th place. McIlroy found 69.62% of greens in regulation (11th), made 4.42 birdies per round (second) and enjoyed a scoring average of 69.646. Yet again, his bunker play was average at best, getting up and down 47.52% of the time.
And so we move into 2017, an injury-blighted year when he failed to win a single tournament. So you would expect all his statistics to have been affected adversely, wouldn’t you? Hmmm…he averaged 316.7 yards from the tee, putting him in first place, although his 54.97% accuracy left him in 158th place. He struck 65.94% of greens in regulation, averaged 3.85 birdies per round (24th) and saw his scoring average for the season fall to 69.529. But here’s the most surprising statistic of all - his sand-save percentage improved to 64.06% - only two players did better.
Last year was regarded as a disappointment, when he won just once and threw away a golden opportunity to finally win The Masters. Do the statistics reflect that? He led the way in distance from the tee, averaging an incredible 319.7 yards, but found himself in 163rd place in terms of accuracy, finding a meagre 55.79% of fairways. And he was 106th in greens in regulation, hitting just 66.30%. He averaged four birdies per round (17th) and his scoring average was 69.303 (fifth). And he was back to normal when it came to sand saves, getting up and down 52.43% of the time, which left him in 58th place.
So there you have it. Rory McIlroy by numbers. Oh, before you say it, yes, we looked at his putting statistics too. He averages around 28 putts per round, a figure that has barely changed one iota in all those years. What does all of this prove? Well, it shows us that McIlroy hits the ball a long way, misses a lot of fairways, scores plenty of birdies and has vast scope for improvement in his bunker play. But the numbers prove nothing. It is all about what everybody else does, when and where McIlroy performs at his best and where and when he holes those crucial putts. He will be hoping to find that formula more consistently in 2019.
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