Rory McIlroy’s T2 at the WGC-Mexico Championship was his fourth straight top 5 on the PGA Tour – the first time he has done this in his career. All it’s done though is get us all excited about his chances of winning the Masters.
But do we put too much pressure on the Northern Irishman? Two of our writers have their say…
Yes, says Mark Townsend
We expect an awful lot of Rory McIlroy; where he should play, how many putts he should hole, who he should represent in the Olympics, how he should go about tackling Augusta and how often he should win, and so on.
He’s not yet 30 and he’s won 23 times as a professional, four of which were majors and two of which were by landslides, hence the expectation. He’s also following in the footsteps time-wise of the only player to dominate the game in the past quarter of a century.
Now we’re wondering if he’s lost his Sunday fizz?
Last year there were examples of this at the Masters (74), Wentworth (70), Open (70), Bridgestone (73) and Tour Championship (74).
Indeed it came up in his first week back this year in Hawaii.
“I started a lot of these final rounds like two back, three back. So just pushing a little too much too early and trying to really force myself to hitting shots or hitting it into positions where I don’t really need to, a lot can happen in 18 holes. I’ve been six ahead with seven to play and just crept over the line or I’ve been five behind with nine to play and had a chance to win on the last green.”
Rory’s best stuff on a Sunday last year came at Bay Hill when he danced round in 64 with five birdies in the last six holes.
“I was even par after five or six holes and I could have been 3- or 4-under, but I just stayed really patient and just tried to play golf and let it happen and that patience was rewarded that day. So that’s the sort of mindset I need to try to get back into.”
He’ll have been told to be patient since he was a toddler chipping into that washing machine but you only really get it when you mature properly. These things generally just come with age. This year it’s not just the putter that looks so impressive, he himself looks more measured. Look at Mexico, things weren’t clicking, he was over par after 10 holes and he signed for a 67 with a bogey at the last.
They’re all cliches – all good things to those who wait and all that, keep knocking on the door and all that – but it’s happening for McIlroy.
Sunday April 14 will be his biggest mental test and all the signs are looking more promising than they have in recent years.
No, says Alex Perry
If Rory McIlroy was to end is career today, would he be happy? Despite one glaring omission, his CV is off-the-scale good: Four majors, two WGCs, eight regular PGA Tour titles (including four FedEx Cup play-off events) and six regular European Tour wins (including two World Tour Championships and one BMW PGA Championship). Oh, and four Ryder Cup wins in five appearances.
The only Titles They All Want that are missing are the Masters and The Players.
If he gets another PGA Tour win under his belt before May, he’ll be only the third player since the first Masters in 1934 to win 15 PGA Tour titles including four majors before turning 30. I don’t think I need to tell you that the other two are Jack and Tiger.
Since the beginning of the 2008 season, McIlroy is third on the most PGA Tour wins list with 14, trailing Tiger by five and DJ by six.
The problem is, he’s only won once – at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitional – since September 2016.
February 1 marked 10 years since his first tour win, the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic, and he has only gone two full calendar years without winning: 2013 and 2017. The former was largely put down to a high-profile change of equipment. The latter was just a blip.
But McIlroy is too good to go on these winless runs and you’d be a brave punter to back against him getting over the line at Augusta after so many near-misses. Indeed, the bookies have him as joint second favourite to slip into green in April, just behind Johnson.
In 2017, he told ESPN: “I’d love to give you an answer and say my life is already fulfilled, with everything that’s happened, and everything that’s going to happen in the future, by starting a family and all that,” McIlroy said. “But if I didn’t have a green jacket, there’d be a tiny piece that would just be missing. It really would be. And yeah, I’d be lying if I said, as a person…I wouldn’t be fulfilled if I didn’t get it.”
So no, we don’t put too much pressure on him, it’s just expectation of a phenomenal talent. And it’s nothing more than the pressure he exerts on himself.