Why Rory McIlroy must get back to basics to win at Baltusrol
For hopeful, excitable Irish fans, it’s been tough to watch Rory McIlroy play golf over the last 12 months.
Perhaps more than any other nation, we love to get behind our sportspeople. We celebrate the good times and show support in the bad times like no others. A sporting nation with highs and lows. Wow has it been tough to be an Irish golf fan lately, though.
Being in McIlroy's corner has certainly brought its highs over the last seven years.
The celebrations seen in Kildare when he won the Irish Open in May were comparable with any of the four major wins he’s had in his career thus far.
It was amazing to see the nation get behind him the way they did. It’s the thing about Rory’s relationship with his home fans; despite all the controversial comments and moves he’s made in the last few years, when he plays beautifully and wins, we forget it all.
Maybe we’ve started to get greedy. Nine major wins for Irish players in the past seven years will certainly do that to you. But watching someone with as much talent as McIlroy fall short really hurts. It always seems to be there for the taking with McIlroy, but little mistakes cost him. I’ve had my hands on my head far too much lately when I watch him play.
Rory’s biggest problem over the last year has been something more than just his putting stroke; it’s been a severe lack of patience. He always seems to push himself to do too much too quickly. It can have its benefits when he’s playing at his best, but when his game is below-par it costs him in a big way.
It’s something you often see with the hot-firing young guns who have just arrived on tour. They have no fear and all the belief in the world, but they tend to fall short as a result of poor course management.
Indeed, it’s something we saw from a 19-year-old Rory McIlroy not so long ago. A lot of birdies and a lot of excitement, coupled with a huge amount of frustration.
It’s a simple case of laying up instead of going for a par-5 in two when you don’t need to. It’s a case of lagging a 35 foot putt up to the hole instead of drilling it directly at it when the chance of making it is slim.
Rory has always had the belief in himself that he can win. You don’t win major championships without that.
But he seems to have taken a step backwards in terms of his management and this is something he needs to fix fast if he wants to get back to winning ways.
When you’re competing against the top guys in the world, day in day out you can’t afford to make a huge amount of errors, as he does. His golf is exciting, there’s no question about that, but it’s become too aggressive to win majors.
Rory needs to get back to basics. His ability to overpower a golf course with his incredible ball-striking has been his biggest strength his entire life, but it could become his biggest downfall if he doesn’t once again learn to control it.
He has to recognise that he can’t go for birdie on every hole, especially on difficult golf courses such as Troon, Oakmont and Baltusrol. He has to stop expecting too much of himself and try to get back to actually enjoying the game. By simply accepting the mistakes he makes and moving on quickly from them, he’ll be able to keep himself in contention and improve his on-course consistency.
Baltusrol is a golf course which sets up perfectly for McIlroy. It’s long, it’s tight and it has large sloping greens making it the perfect ball-strikers test.
His competition there will already be limited to a small number of players who can also hit it as far as he does. If he plays the aggressive style of golf we’ve seen over the last six months, he’ll be punished for it.
However, if he can force himself to slow down and look at the bigger picture hole by hole, he will be the man to beat alongside Dustin Johnson.
He’s motivated going in to this week. As a guy who only cares about winning majors, this weekend will make or break his season. Let’s hope his major drought ends here.