Hands up if you thought we’d reach this day and Rory McIlroy would still be looking for his fifth major championship victory?
Today is McIlroy’s 32nd birthday. It’s been nearly seven years, 2,824 days to be precise, since McIlroy won the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, his second major win that year following the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Here’s what Rory said after collecting his fourth major:
“I thought winning the Open Championship a few weeks ago had sort of put me on a higher level in this game. But then to win a fourth major here, to be one behind Phil (Mickelson), one behind Seve (Ballesteros), level with Ernie (Els), level with Raymond Floyd; I mean, I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age.
“I was happy being a two‑time major champion coming into this year, and suddenly I'm a four‑time major champion and going for the career Grand Slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is; not that I'm counting.”
And presumably he’s still not counting the days until he dons a green jacket to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods in the elite group of men to have won all four of golf’s marquee tournaments?
Here’s what else Rory said that evening at Valhalla Golf Club in Lexington, Kentucky.
“To be the face of golf or one of the faces of golf, it's a big responsibility, but at the same time, I feel like I'm up to the task of handling it well.”
Rory has handled himself well but the wait for another major must be frustrating. That was perhaps obvious after his hasty Masters departure last month. The former world number one exited stage left after rounds of 76 and 74, his first Saturday and Sunday off during Augusta week since 2010. Normally the most upfront and open of players, McIlroy was in such a hurry to get to his private plane he ducked out of media interviews. Very un-Rory like.
Let’s cut the Northern Irishman some slack for his Masters muting considering the copious amounts of time he’s given the golfing press over the years.
Of course, it’s not just in the majors Rory’s well has run dry. He hasn’t won any tournament since the 2019 WGC–HSBC Golf Championship. Again, hands up who saw that coming.
Thought so too.
Should we be worried? Yes! Especially considering Rory’s decision to try to follow the Bryson DeChambeau route and gain extra yards. Why anyone would try to mess with one of the greatest, most beautiful, fluid swings the game has ever seen is a mystery. As Keats wrote:
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
It’s also at odds with what Rory also said after his fourth major win:
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's my motto. I've always been that way. I feel like the work that I've put into my golf swing from sort of the age of 15 to 20 is going to see me sort of throughout my career.”
If only he’d cut and pasted that thought and stuck it on his golf bag, then maybe he wouldn’t have been suckered into Bryson’s slipstream.
His decision to draft in Pete Cowen to help him get back on track will hopefully pay off in the long run because history isn’t on Rory’s side. As fellow golf writer Robert Lusetich noted recently on Twitter:
Lusetich also noted:
In other words, Rory needs to get his skates on.
I hope he gets a belated 32nd birthday prezzie by winning this week’s Wells Fargo Championship to go with his 2015 victory. Hopefully it will set him for another PGA Championship at Kiawah Island win in two weeks’ time. The vibes are good: Rory won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah.
Maybe then he can stop the count.
#JustSaying: “You can’t always be playing well when it counts. You’ll never win golf tournaments until you learn to score well when you’re playing badly.” Jim Barnes