Some people need a Baconator and a large fry to nurse a hangover. Rory McIlory sweated out his post-PGA Championship hangover at The Barclays and appears laser-sighted on the FedEx Cup heading into the final round at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
His Sunday scorecard saw no bogeys and took flight with seven birdies.
McIlroy went on the golf equivalent of a rock-star bender, which started back on July 17 at Hoylake. He’s on the type of streak that has made everyone within earshot of his explosive driver asking, “Tiger who?”
McIlroy won The Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then the PGA Championship. The mental grind it takes to win tournaments of this kind is something we mortals can’t understand. It’s no wonder he stumbled at The Barclays to finish tied in 22nd.
Now, from what I’ve seen over the years with Tiger, from 2000 if you want to compare it to that, he’s got a way to go. But to win the British and the PGA and throw a World Golf Championship in the middle is, under anybody’s circumstances, a remarkable month of golf, some of the best I’ve seen.
You can probably compare it to some of the Tiger stuff. Though he did that over decades, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rory did it, too. He’s that good. He can do it.
McIlroy has found the groove he had when he wired The Open field. He’s recovered the stroke that saw him erase Sergio Garcia’s three-shot lead over McIlroy in three holes at the Bridgestone Invitational.
The holes looked as big as a crater. NBC’s Johnny Miller said this during the broadcast:
He’s got the ‘it’ factor. You always knew he had that ‘it’ when he was a teenager. Of course he came out and his swing is there, and now he’s put on all that extra muscle. He’s carrying the ball if he wants 320 out of a guy who’s about 5-9. It’s just an amazing amount of club-head speed. He’s got the whole package. He’s putting well. His irons are good. He’s right on plane. He’s right in the prime of his career. We’re seeing wonderful things out of Rory. He’s got the goods.
McIlroy has that ball on a string. At the DBC, a tournament he won in 2012, he landed his approach on 15 within a foot. On the par-three 16th, again, his shot was in tap-in range.
According to the NBC broadcast, McIlroy was No. 1 in strokes gained tee-to-green with +4.4 through 16 holes.
“Again, 125 [yards], trying to land it about 118-119, which I did and it stopped quite nicely for me there,” McIlroy said about his shot on 16 during the NBC broadcast. “Another kick-in birdie.”
Another kick-in birdie! You see how dialed in he is. Looking to land it 118-119 is the type of control that signifies his shots are an extension of his subconscious.
McIlroy took a week off after winning the PGA Championship, and the only golf he played was a friendly game of Facebreakers against Jimmy Fallon with the honorable Woods presiding.
“Top right,” McIlroy said, then cranked a chip off Fallon’s glass panel. In the clip, just look at Woods. He’s godfathering McIlroy, as in friends close, enemies closer. McIlroy used too much past tense with Woods standing there. Woods’ body looked ready to burst through his collarless black shirt.
This was the type of publicity tour reserved for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. The thing with them is that their season is over.
McIlroy reveled in the spoils of his conquests before the start of the most lucrative stretch of golf of the year.
So when he shot 74 to open The Barclays with little to no practice going in, it was expected that he’d slip. Maintaining his blade-sharp play from July through to Labor Day was impossible. He went to the range and finished The Barclays with rounds of 65, 70, 70.
Fatigue isn't playing a part. It's I think just not putting the time in that I probably should have over the past week and I think I allowed myself (time off) and deserved that. But this is the sort of consequence of it and I need to work hard on this afternoon and go out (Friday) and shoot a good number. ... After such a great few weeks I wanted to enjoy it for a week. ... But I guess taking a week off, I probably just needed to give myself a little bit more time. But I wasn't going to do that. I was enjoying myself.
Now he’s getting serious again, and that’s bad news for those either in his wake or those—like Jason Day and Russell Henley—who can hear the T-Rex that is McIlroy gaining ground.
McIlroy can, and likely will, win this tournament on Monday. He won at TPC Boston in 2012, and the players ahead of him on the leaderboard aren't in his orbit.
They'll be pulled down by McIlroy's gravity and sink while he rises to fill the void. As long as McIlroy starts the day within three shots of the lead, he will swallow them up like a late-closing thoroughbred.
He also won the BMW Championship in 2012, the site of the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. McIlroy's scorched-earth golf will continue.
After carding a 64 and moving to 10 under Sunday at the DBC, McIlroy hungers for the FedEx Cup, $10 million and the adulation that comes with being the best golfer on the planet.
McIlroy said to BBC Sport:
I am very relaxed, I'm going out on to the golf course and I'm not really putting a whole lot of pressure on myself.
I'm just going out and playing and I know that if I play well, that I'll have somewhat of a chance to maybe win the tournament.
I am excited for the opportunity to get back to that number one place and move on to Denver with a little bit of a lead.
It’s Labor Day, and McIlroy’s going to work.