With the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 right around the corner, the Memorial Tournament serves as a fantastic preparatory outing for golf's top players such as Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy has been dealing with a media frenzy ever since he broke off his engagement with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki last week. With the U.S. Open just two weeks away, he could ill afford to let his personal problems hurt his focus.
However, his win in England last week demonstrated that his distractions off the course wouldn't adversely affect his performance on it. Continuing his momentum Muirfield will only increase the notion he has put things well behind him.
Let's take a look at McIlroy's round-by-round performances, as he continues to maintain his hot hand on the golf course.
McIlroy's final round displayed the same kind of inconsistency as his previous three at Muirfield.
On Sunday, McIlroy had a great chance to keep his momentum going after following up a horrid 78 with a 69 on Saturday. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite come through and finished with an even-par 72 to finish the tournament at six under.
Here's a look at his scorecard from the Memorial's final round:
|Rory McIlroy Round 4 Scorecard|
After beginning his day with three straight pars, McIlroy's inconsistency reared its ugly head.
He recorded a bogey on the par-three fourth hole after being unable to get up and down from a green-side bunker. Although, a solid birdie on the par-five fifth quickly got him back to even on the day.
McIlroy's short-game struggles continued on the sixth, as a terrible short approach followed by a three-putt from just over six feet away earned him yet another bogey.
The trend continued after McIlroy birdied the par-five seventh, but followed it up with a bogey at the par-four ninth. He finished his front nine with a one-over 37 for the second consecutive day.
After making the turn, McIlroy continued his roller-coaster ride.
He bogeyed the 10th, birdied the 11th—another par five—and then bogeyed the 12th to go two over for his round.
Two pars later, he reached the 15th hole—the final par five of the round.
After a beautiful drive, McIlroy's second shot found a green-side bunker. He was able to convert the up and down for a birdie. At this point in the round, the only birdies McIlroy had recorded were at each of the par fives.
On the par-four 17th, he finally showed some signs of life. After crushing his drive, McIlroy's 113-yard approach spun back to just four feet from the pin. He holed his putt and finally got back to even for the day.
Here's a look at his stellar approach:
McIlroy moved on to par the 18th hole and finished with an even-par 72 on Sunday.
Shooting six under for the tournament isn't an unfavorable omen going forward; however, his second-round 78 doesn't exactly settle the nerves.
With the U.S. Open fast approaching, McIlroy must find his consistency to avoid an early exit from one of the most treacherous tournaments of the year. After all, as we all know, inconsistency is heavily punished by the major's thick rough and slick greens.
There's certainly plenty of work ahead if McIlroy is to contend at Pinehurst No. 2. Limiting mental errors that lead to scorecard blemishes should be his top priority.
If he can persevere though this rocky stretch, he has all of the talent necessary to be a factor on Sunday in golf's next major tournament.
McIlroy's roller-coaster ride at the 2014 Memorial Tournament continued on Saturday.
After an opening-round 63, McIlroy imploded on Friday with a 78 and followed that up with a 69 in Round 3. Needless to say, consistency hasn't exactly been on display.
Justin Ray of the Golf Channel tweeted a very interesting statistic involving McIlroy:
Regardless, McIlroy's 69 on Saturday was a nice rebound from his horrid Round 2 showing. He may not have been a big mover on the day, but certainly appeared more confident in his stroke.
Take a look at his Round 3 scorecard:
|Rory McIlroy Round 3 Scorecard|
It was the back nine that proved to be McIlroy's best friend on Saturday—obviously a huge change after shooting a 43 on the same nine just one day prior.
Unfortunately, his front nine was rather turbulent. He began in ominous fashion, recording bogeys on holes two and three, quickly moving to two over on the day.
Although, he did briefly right the ship after a birdie on the par-five fifth, but another bogey on the sixth hole quickly brought him back to two over.
PGA Tour's official Twitter account noted McIlroy's early struggles:
After a great tee shot on the par-three eighth, McIlroy holed his birdie putt and finished the front nine at one over. This wasn't a great start considering he'd previously put up red numbers on Muirfield's front side in the first two rounds, but the results on Saturday certainly could have been rather disastrous due to his start.
McIlroy really regained his momentum on the par-five 11th. He absolutely bombed his drive 340 yards and followed it up with a beautiful 207-yard approach to just over nine feet. After sinking the putt, his eagle quickly put him one-under par for the day.
After five consecutive pars, McIlroy entered No. 17 at one under. He hit a beautiful approach to 11 feet and rolled in his birdie putt to go to two under for the round. Here's a look at his strong effort:
His hot hand continued on the 18th hole.
He drove into a fairway bunker and followed it up with one of the prettiest shots of the day. With about 160 yards to the green, McIlroy blasted out of the bunker to within three feet of the pin.
Here's a look at his stellar shot:
From there, his tap-in birdie allowed him to finish with a three-under 69 on the day.
At six under for the tournament, McIlroy isn't exactly in contention heading into Sunday. Although, that's not the goal at this point.
With the U.S. Open around the corner, it's most important to put one more solid round in the books and continue to build momentum and confidence heading into one of the most nerve-racking tournaments of the year.
What a difference one day can make on the PGA Tour.
After a dazzling 63 in Round 1, the tides turned on McIlroy in a big way on Friday. He followed up his masterful opening-round performance with a dismal six-over 78.
Could McIlroy's knee issue have played a part in the second round? Zac Jackson of Fox Sports spoke to McIlroy after his round.
Said McIlroy, "It's a little tender, a little sore."
Jackson added that McIlroy said his knee began to feel better "when the painkillers kicked in."
Obviously, this is something to monitor going forward.
Here's a look at his Round 2 scorecard:
|Rory McIlroy Round 2 Scorecard|
McIlroy began on the back nine on Friday at Muirfield, and a bogey at the par-four 10th served as an omen of what was to come.
After a great tee shot on the par-three 12th to six feet from the pin, McIlroy seemed briefly regain his momentum after sinking the short birdie putt.
Unfortunately, disaster awaited on the following holes. Three consecutive double bogeys sent McIlroy's round spiraling out of control.
McIlroy scrambled through the par-four 13th, finally finding the green on his fourth shot, only to two putt for a double bogey. Here's a look at his final strokes of the hole:
His unfortunate journey continued on the following hole, struggling to get out of the green-side rough and leading to his third double bogey in a row. Take a look at his stumble in the rough:
After adding one more bogey at the par-four 18th, McIlroy finished his opening nine with a disastrous 43.
The PGA Tour's Twitter account noted McIlroy's struggles after his opening nine completed:
He began to slightly right the ship at the par-four second hole, hitting his approach to 11 feet and sinking the putt for a birdie.
McIlroy would record one more bogey at the fifth and follow that up with a birdie at the seventh for a one-under 35 on the front nine and a six-over 78 for the day.
Golf Central tweeted a very interesting statistic regarding McIlroy's second-round performances:
Due to his great performance on Thursday, this horrid second round dropped him to three under for the tournament and does not put him in any danger of missing the cut.
He'll have plenty of ground to make up over the weekend if he is to get back into contention. A solid finish over the final two days of the tournament will go a long way for his confidence and momentum going forward.
Rory McIlroy's preparation for the 2014 U.S. Open couldn't be going much smoother. Less than a week after winning the 2014 BMW PGA Championship, the two-time major winner jumped out to an early lead after the first round of the 2014 Memorial Tournament.
With a nine-under 63, McIlroy sits three strokes ahead of Paul Casey, Chris Kirk and Bubba Watson at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Here's a look at the leaderboard after 18 holes, courtesy of PGATour.com.
|2014 Memorial Tournament Round 1 Leaderboard|
McIlroy's 63 tied for the second-lowest single-round score of his career, per Golf Central:
It was also the lowest score at the Memorial in nearly 40 years:
After entering the clubhouse, McIlroy said that his game hasn't changed that much recently. He's simply winning the mental game, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
I don't think it's anything more than just being confident with my game. I was expecting this to happen. I've been playing well. I've been posting good numbers, good rounds. And I knew my game was close. And honestly, I don't think it's anything to do with what's happening off the golf course. It's just I've been trending in the right direction, and it's starting to all come together.
The 25-year-old started out the first round well, with two birdies in the first four holes.
McIlroy picked up his third birdie of the day on the par-five No. 7, but it came at a bit of cost after he revealed that he had tweaked his knee on that hole, per GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel:
As a result, McIlroy played the rest of the first round at less than 100 percent. BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts reported that the star was visibly in pain as he walked the course:
McIlroy's performance was all the more impressive when you consider how much pain he must've been in through the final 11 holes of the round.
Although he had a strong front nine—shooting four under—the back nine was when the fun really began.
McIlroy started off with a birdie on No. 10. His drive was a little to the right of the fairway, but he helped himself with an impressive approach that got him on the green. From there, he sunk a tough 22-foot putt.
Rory followed that up with an eagle on No. 11. His 27-foot putt found the bottom of the cup and gave him the outright lead at seven under.
After a birdie on No. 13, McIlroy double-bogeyed No. 14 to stall his momentum. In the past, this might have been the point that Rory threw away the lead and melted down.
Instead, he immediately responded with another eagle on No. 15 to move to eight under for the round. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Thursday was the first time he had ever posted two eagles in the same round of a PGA tournament:
McIlroy closed out with a birdie on 16 and then pars on both 17 and 18 to finish at nine under.
Given everything that went wrong for Rory on the day—his injured knee and his double bogey on 14—the fact that he shot an opening-round 63 is nothing short of astounding and bodes well for the rest of the tournament.
There's the chance that his knee will become a larger issue the deeper into the tournament McIlroy goes, but for now, he's firmly established himself as the guy to beat in Dublin.