When will Rory McIlroy reemerge from Tiger Woods’ shadow?
The headline seems to indicate it’s not a matter of if, but when, Rory McIlroy will reemerge from the considerable shadow cast by Tiger Woods.
Coming off a spectacular 2012 season in which he won his second major championship and was the No. 1 player in the world, who could have foreseen McIlroy not only being unable to extend his lead in the Official World Golf Rankings but also falling behind Woods in golf’s race for No. 1?
Mark me down as a guy who a) isn’t sure McIlroy will be able to reemerge from that shadow and b) thinks the process might take a year or more to accomplish, if it can be accomplished at all.
For starters, the numbers are not in McIlroy’s favor.
This week’s OWGR shows Woods with a 3.30 point average, and that’s considerable.
McIlroy is going to need to start winning and/or contending to chop away at that lead.
Problem No. 1.
McIlroy has done neither of those things in what has been a lackluster first six months of the 2013 season for him.
Yes, he has four top-10 finishes in his first eight starts, but he was never really in contention coming down the stretch in any of those.
He was always on the periphery of contention, never a big participant in it.
By contrast, Woods already has four wins this year and is playing at a level at which he could win seven, eight, even nine times before the year is done.
If he continues to win, not only will McIlroy not be able to advance out of that deficit, but he’ll also fall farther behind.
Even worse for McIlroy is the fact Woods seems to be on the upswing and getting more and more comfortable and confident with the latest version of his swing.
That’s trouble not only for McIlroy but for the rest of the PGA Tour as well.
McIlroy obviously did not enjoy his time, nor did he flourish, as the No. 1 player in the world.
As others have found out, being the best in the world, by whatever measurement, gets to be difficult with all of the pressure and expectations that accompany the honor.
The fact that McIlroy couldn’t handle the pressure of being king of the hill doesn’t make him a bad guy or a bad player.
He seemingly is the prototype of the kind of young man every mother would be proud to call her son. Phil Mickelson was never No. 1 in the world, and his career has not suffered as a result.
But if McIlroy intends to make a serious run at Woods and that top spot, he’s going to need to find some way to get tougher between the ears.
Sure, there are still holes in his game that can be traced to his switch to Nike gear. That will take time, which he doesn’t have if he’s going to press Woods.
His putting has not been good this year, and, of course, that’s one of the most mental aspects of the game.
McIlroy is 94th in strokes gained putting. He’s top 10 in driving distance and greens in regulation, but in crunch time, he just hasn’t executed the way he did a year ago.
McIlroy talked about the state of his game earlier this week before he missed the cut at the of the BMW PGA Championship in England, via Philip Reid of The Irish Times: “I’m really excited and positive where my game is at, it’s just a matter of holing a few more putts and, if I can do that, and keep giving myself chances to win tournaments, hopefully I’ll walk through that door and get the first win of the season.”
Wishing and hoping is one thing, but McIlroy has to make it happen, and to this point, he hasn't. The player who dominated golf in 2012 has not shown up in 2013.
And for the game itself, that’s too bad.
There was much anticipation of a spirited duel between McIlroy and Woods this year, as the 24-year-old Irishman appeared to be the best chance for a rival to Woods in a long time.
McIlroy’s cool start in conjunction with Woods' red-hot explosion from the gate quickly dampened that anticipation.
Amazing isn’t it, how player after player rides the hype of great promise into a position of possibly pushing Woods only to get somewhat close to that and have it all disappear?