Rory Admits He Has to Eliminate the Mistakes
Rory McIlroy recorded 29 birdies in 72 holes at the Zozo Championship. It was a career-best performance. So why didn’t he figure in the shake-up? That’s easy - he also had eight bogeys and three double bogeys during the week to finish in a tie for 17th place. He was so frustrated that he deliberately broke his wedge during the first round.
His tournament was effectively over after a dreadful front nine in the first round, when he dropped seven shots and ended the day nine off the lead. He recovered with consecutive rounds of 67 before shooting 66 on Sunday, but by then he was too far behind to challenge the top of the leaderboard, with American Patrick Cantlay taking victory.
It goes without saying that if he is to have any chance of winning The Masters to finally complete the career Grand Slam he will have to find a way to eliminate all those mistakes.
And he knows it. “I just need to limit the mistakes more than anything else," he said. "I don't think it's anything technical, but I've sort of compounded errors. I had a really bad run at the end of the tournament to go from wherever I was in the top 10 to outside the top 20. So yeah, it's basically that, when I get out of position.
"I'm trying to be really almost just too perfect and I'm maybe just being a touch aggressive when I get myself out of position."
McIlroy, 31, has not won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship but consistently remains among the favourites going into the big tournaments.
(Rory Looks to Augusta)
Impressive form earlier this year saw him reclaim the world number one spot but he has struggled horribly since golf returned and is now down to fifth in the rankings.
"My favourite times at Augusta have been out of The Masters, on trips there with my father,” said McIlroy. "A lot of people feel the same way - when you have nothing on the line, they are the best times. I've played it enough times to know what to expect whatever the temperature and conditions are like.
"You need all aspects of your game to be in good shape, especially your short game. So by getting your short game in order everything else will follow.”
It is something of a concern that McIlroy would admit that the times he has enjoyed most at Augusta have been when he has played the course for fun. He is, of course, quite correct when he says that he has got to eliminate the unforced errors but the suspicion is that the problems with the Northern Irishman run deeper.
He is still only 31 and should be in his prime but he often looks like golf is the last thing he wants to be doing. Maybe, with four majors and a fortune to his name, he simply isn’t hungry any longer. My own belief is that the root of it all lies with the pandemic - McIlroy has admitted that he has struggled to motivate himself to perform without huge galleries, and there is no doubt that he is an individual who feeds off the unique atmosphere that an American gallery can generate when a golfer is playing well.
The fact that he made 29 birdies in 72 holes proves his best game is still in there somewhere. He just seems to switch off at the wrong time. Hopefully, Augusta and another chance to claim the career Grand Slam will finally focus the mind. And he may actually benefit from not having the weight of favouritism on his shoulders.
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