Commentary: Reports of Rory McIlroy’s demise are ‘Fake News’


The headlines from Rory McIlroy’s missed cut in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open sound as though McIlroy’s future is in serious doubt.

It isn’t. Not by a long shot.

“McIlroy’s meltdown gets worse,” screamed the Daily Telegraph. “It’s sink or swim for Rory,” blasted the Daily Mail. “Rory Fowling it all up again” roared the Daily Mirror, the last headline highlighting the contrast between McIlroy’s opening 74 and Rickie Fowler’s 67.

It was McIlroy’s second missed cut in a row following the Irish Open, and he left Scotland earlier than normal scratching his head and looking for inspiration.

“I’m frustrated, but at the same time I thought I saw some good signs out there,” McIlroy said after a second-round 71. “I thought my putting improved this week compared to last week.

“It’s not like I’m shooting 76s and 77s. It’s all around even par, but look, even par these days isn’t good enough.

“I’m just waiting for something, some sort of spark, just something to go right, and the last couple weeks haven’t been like that. Just got to keep plugging away and hopefully it turns around next week.”

Expect the headlines to get louder if things don’t turn around next week and McIlroy bombs out of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Cue “Rory’s game in crisis” headlines.

Stop! Time for a little perspective.

Conveniently forgotten amid the gloom and doom is Rory’s lack of competitive play this year because of a rib injury. McIlroy played 14 tournaments before last year’s British Open. This season he has played only 10 times. It should have been more, but he was forced to withdraw from both the BMW PGA Championship and Memorial Tournament because of concerns over the rib injury.

“I haven’t had enough competitive rounds this year,” McIlroy said. “With the injury, I’ve missed a lot of events. It’s tough. Injuries, you can’t really mess with them, and you can’t come back too early. I missed a lot of play because of that. I’ve sort of been playing catch-up all year.

“I would have loved to have played more rounds going into, not just the Open, but the rest of the year.”

The injury alone should mitigate against the negative headlines. So, too, should the general nature of this crazy stick-and-ball game.

Let’s cast our minds back briefly to 2013. McIlroy missed the cut in the British Open at Muirfield. He seemingly had lost his game to the point where he announced himself “brain dead” after rounds of 79 and 75 in the Open Phil Mickelson won. The headlines then were just as gloomy. Why wouldn’t they be? “Brain dead” was a tabloid headline writer’s dream.

He didn’t stay brain dead for long. Twelve months after his Muirfield mayhem he won the British Open at Royal Liverpool. He also won the PGA Championship, along with victories in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and BMW PGA Championship.

So if he misses the cut this week at Royal Birkdale, there’s no reason he won’t win the PGA Championship next month, or the next year’s Masters, or U.S. Open or the British Open at Carnoustie. (Remember, he won the silver medal as leading amateur at Carnoustie in 2008.)

That’s just the nature of golf. Except for Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, no player has played consistently at such a high level.

“People have no idea how hard it is to win majors,” Padraig Harrington said. “I have to laugh when people point to the last seven majors being won by seven consecutive first-time winners.  There is an expectation that because a player has won one major then they should automatically win more. The game isn’t like that.

“I won one major in 2007, two in 2008 and it was almost as if I was expected to win four in 2009. If not four then at least add to the three I already had. There were huge expectations every time I arrived at a major. Rory now has the same expectations. When he doesn’t win, then everyone starts to question what’s gone wrong with his game. Nothing has gone wrong with his game, he’s just going through the ups and downs every player goes through.”

McIlroy is only 28, with probably at least another 12 years of competitive play in him. He’s going to have many ups and downs over that period. And more than his fair share of negative headlines.

(Note: This story appeared in the July 17, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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