The woes continue for the world’s No. 2 golfer. Despite a strong finish on Sunday at Augusta National, Rory McIlroy’s inconsistent performance crippled his chances of earning his first green jacket.
McIlroy finished Day 1 at even par and gained two more strokes with a 70 on Friday, but a third-round 79 was the type of ugly number that tends to mar his scorecards of late. A final-round 69 wasn’t nearly enough to resuscitate his Masters hopes, and the 23-year-old is left to contemplate the success that has eluded him since his historic collapse at Augusta in 2011.
Inconsistency is the mark of dwindling focus, and it often necessitates a mental adjustment far more than any swing fixes or mechanical adjustment. McIlroy has shown the physical ability to be the best golfer in the world, but it’s the other aspects of his game that need some work.
According to McIlroy, he “didn’t quite have it” when he shot a 79 on Saturday. The 23-year-old claimed his poor performance was a result of wide misses off the tee that put him in bad position to pick up shots (via Rex Hoggard of GolfChannel.com).
He may cite mechanical flaws and mishits for his round of seven over, but it’s hard to ignore McIlroy’s propensity for allowing the big number to creep up all too often in recent months.
After a putrid start of Round 2 at the Honda Classic in early March (seven over), the 23-year-old withdrew with little more explanation than some talk of a sore wisdom tooth that was bothering him. Regarding his poor performance and swing, McIlroy claimed he didn’t know what was going on (per Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com).
He followed that performance with an eighth-place finish at the World Golf Championships a week later, quelling some concerns about his sudden withdrawal from the Honda Classic.
A 45th-place finish at the Shell Houston Open again raised some questions about McIlroy’s game, but it was a second-place showing at the Valero Texas Open on April 7 that is worth further examination.
Despite a final-round 66 to finish 12 under, McIlroy showed the same round-to-round inconsistency that he displayed at Augusta this weekend. With rounds of 72 on Thursday and 71 on Saturday, the world No. 2 negated his five-under 67 of Friday and was unable to take firm control of the tournament lead.
To be fair to McIlroy, rounds of 71 and 72 are nothing to worry about. Were those the only scores he was capable of achieving, none of this would be an issue.
Sometimes being great comes with a little loftier expectations, though.
Rarely does a golfer dominate Augusta from start to finish; the scoring conditions at the course simply don’t allow for several rounds in the 60s. But there’s no denying McIlroy’s ability to play under par on a consistent basis.
Scoring inconsistency stems from a number of issues. McIlroy’s putting in Round 1 of the Masters was extremely erratic, but it was his ball-striking that suffered on Saturday. All signs point to something more troubling than some errant shots and uneven lies.
They point to a lack of focus that will continue to haunt McIlroy until he works on regaining his mental edge.
Without that edge, no one has a chance of winning on the PGA Tour. We’ve seen a similar set of problems with Tiger Woods in recent years, but he has roared back with what appears to be a renewed sense of confidence and sharpness. His swing has changed, but Tiger is the same golfer he always was—he’s also as focused as ever.
McIlroy spoke recently on inconsistency, pointing out what it means to be the best golfer on a given weekend (as quoted by James Corrigan of The Daily Telegraph):
We always go on about consistency but I always stop and think, ‘What if I finished 10th every week?’ I’d make a great living, be in all the great events – but it’d be pretty dull. I’d never get that feeling that I’ve beat everyone there is to beat that week, that incredible buzz. I know it doesn’t have to be a trade off, but all I’m saying is that if I have to take the down moments to experience those huge highs, then I’ll take them, sure.
McIlroy acknowledged the balance between winning and crashing in pursuit of wins, but it doesn’t seem he fully embraces the philosophy. And until he finds that balance—and stops trying to do too much all at once—he won’t find further success this year. At least not as much as we’re used to seeing.