6 Reasons Rory McIlroy's Reduced Schedule Will Hurt His Game
It seems to make perfect sense.
Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, says he wants to cut down on his schedule next season, so he doesn't feel quite so fatigued at the end of the year (via ESPN.co.uk).
McIlroy won four tournaments on the PGA tour this season, competed in the FedEx Cup playoffs and was a key member of Europe's winning Ryder Cup team.
There's only one thing that doesn't add up. McIlroy is 23 years old and he is approaching his golfing prime. McIlroy played 16 events on the PGA tour and another 11 events in Europe. He's also been playing in the Race to Dubai events after the Ryder Cup.
That's a lot, but it should not be overly taxing to a superb player and a brilliant athlete.
Acknowledging his fatigue may cause problems for him in the future.
Love of the Game
McIlroy is a great player because of his talent, work ethic and love for the game.
But if he feels a need to cut down on the number of tournaments from 27 to 22 or 23 (via ESPN.co.uk), doesn't that show he is not as enamored with the game as many observers thought?
When you play at the professional level, you are not going into tournaments simply for the love of the game, but doesn't that have to be an element in your makeup?
If playing five or six more tournaments makes you wish you were doing anything else but playing golf, doesn't that raise questions about your competitive instincts, particularly if you have not reached your peak?
Golfers get into a rhythm when they play regularly.
If you suddenly cut the number of tournaments that you play in by 15 or 20 percent, that could impact your swing rhythm.
It stands to reason that if you reduce your tournament entries by that amount, you are also cutting your practice schedule by the same amount.
The same shots that were once so easy and so familiar don't come quite as easily, and a great golfer may suddenly find himself struggling.
McIlroy cited his desire to regain his "mental edge" as one of the primary reasons he wanted to cut his tour schedule (source: ESPN.co.uk).
McIlroy said that he thought he had a hard time mustering his intensity after competing in the World Golf Final in Turkey.
He believes that playing in fewer tournaments will help him have greater concentration and a mental edge in the tournaments that he chooses to play.
But it's not that simple. While it seems logical that he would be more fired up by playing in fewer tournaments, what if he gets so relaxed that he can't turn it back on when he wants to?
In some cases, a rest may help an athlete focus better in the future. But there is no guarantee that it will occur.
Rory McIlroy is one of the biggest hitters on the tour. He averaged 310.1 yards per drive on the PGA tour this season, ranking fifth among all golfers (via pgatour.com).
However, as far as he can hit the ball, his accuracy can be an issue. He hit the fairway on 56.61 percent of his drives, a figure that ranked 155th on the tour.
Playing less frequently is not going to help him hit the ball more accurately. This is clearly an area in his game that he would like to improve. Playing less frequently and practicing less is not necessarily going to help that part of his game.
One of the reasons that McIlroy has become the No. 1 golfer in the world is his excellent putting and his ability to make the tough shots in clutch situations.
McIlroy's putting skill is highlighted by his average of 4.20 birdies per round, a figure that led the PGA tour. McIlroy's putting improved quite a bit in 2011 and 2012.
However, if he's playing less frequently and finds himself with key putts to make in a major tournament or any competition when he is fighting for the lead, he may feel that pressure more if he's not playing as frequently.
When you push yourself hard, play frequently and perhaps feel a bit of fatigue, the pressure is less palpable. When you are playing less frequently, the pressure may be unavoidable.
Message to Competitors
The backdrop behind Rory McIlroy's statement that he wants to play in fewer tournaments next year came after he played against Tiger Woods in the World Golf Final in Turkey.
McIlroy said that he noticed how intense Woods was about his game when they played against each other and that he did not have the same feelings about his own game (via ESPN.co.uk).
"I've said it all year that [Woods is] there and he's playing so well and he's going to continue to win tournaments, and he's going to contend in the majors," Woods said to ESPN. "But the level of intensity he displays is impressive as he can just turn it on. It's something that I struggle to do sometimes."
Woods and other golfers may see this as McIlroy opening the door and giving them just a little bit of an edge in competition that they didn't know was there until the No. 1 golfer in the world made this admission.