World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is in some of the form of his life, yet it won't rid him of a reputation that's followed him in recent years
It’s human nature to look for some sort of perceived weakness in any golfer. In a sport where Hall of Famers might just have a single major to show for their efforts over a 30-year career we’ll still find fault with everyone.
Tiger Woods has 82 wins on the PGA Tour, nobody has more, and 15 majors and yet for chunks of his career observers have chuntered on about his driving. A former coach, who made his name on the back of his time with him, even named his book after it.
For Brooks Koepka, who has won four of his past 10 majors and whose worst finish was 4th in last year’s big four, it’s that he doesn’t win enough ‘regular’ events. Despite all of us talking about nothing else outside the majors when deciding on a player’s standing in the game.
For Dustin Johnson he’s too laid back even though he won his US Open under the strangest of circumstances, the type of which would have thrown pretty much anyone.
For Rory McIlroy it’s that he can’t close out tournaments. Forget the fact that he’s won two of his four majors by eight shots and that he’s got 27 wins around the world at 30 there have been more than enough silly mutterings that he’s not the best at getting over the line. In recent years there has been a bit of ‘Sundayitis’ about him, according to many.
We’ll paper over the cracks that he won the Players, Canada, the Tour Championship and the WGC in China only last year and throw it back into the mix now that he didn’t get it done here at Riviera.
A familiar tee time for Rory ⏰ pic.twitter.com/7jmDs62GyA
— GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) February 16, 2020
If you’re McIlroy then there are plenty of ways for people to pick holes in your efforts. Start the week slowly, as he has done in several recent majors, particularly at Augusta, and the common refrain is that “it’s all got a bit too much for him”.
There might be a perfectly valid excuse; he’s out of form, not settled, changed clubs, is injured, doesn’t like the course, isn’t feeling it with the putter, there might be a problem in his everyday life etc etc etc but we’ll all drop it into the familiar gear of Rory’s let himself down mentally.
If it doesn’t happen on a Sunday then he’s choked. You get the feeling that this will always be the case until he’s got a Green Jacket in the wardrobe.
They’ll say the same after Riviera. Exhibit A from this week will be the treble-bogey 7 at the 5th where his first chip came back to his feet and three putts soon followed.
This had nothing to do with some sort of mental wobble or poor technique, it was just a horrible shot to leave himself and the recovery didn’t come off. Adam Scott made a double from a similar spot. In the four holes previous to this McIlroy got up and down three out of three times.
Some players plan to be streaky, with two hot weeks a year plenty good enough to keep things ticking over. McIlroy, while he will be desperate to peak at the majors, isn’t really afforded a collection of off weeks. He’s the World No. 1, other than Tiger there are more eyes on him and more expectations than anyone, even Woods, and yet he’s putting himself into contention more than ever in all sorts of tests and always against the very best in the world.
When you’re as good as McIlroy they won’t forgive you much. At Riviera he birdied the 18th to take a share of fifth but we’ll all point to the fact that he shot 73 while the rest of his rounds were in the sixties.
Since that missed cut at Royal Portrush this was his 12th start, only two of which have been outside the top 10. There might not be one golfer who wouldn’t want to swap places with him, right now.
Not bad for a choker.