The week came and went, bringing the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open with it. However, this year the course wasn’t welcoming to defending champion and tournament host, Rory McIlroy.
For the first time in tournament history, the Rory McIlroy Foundation invited the field to Portstewart Golf Club in the United Kingdom. After hoisting the trophy last year by a 3-stroke margin, McIlroy was the favorite entering the week, and even he was in good spirits.
Well, as good as anyone who is having a season like the Northern Ireland native.
“It’s not about not playing you’re best,” McIlroy said on Wednesday. “It’s realizing it’s okay to be a winner. It’s okay to have that mindset and it’s okay to be a little selfish.”
This mindset, or selfishness McIlroy doesn’t mind exuding on the course, is thanks to none other than Tiger Woods.
“I guess when it really sort of hit home with me was like when Tiger had the whole scandal thing in 2009 and 2010 and he came back, and obviously there was a lot of talk going on,” McIlroy said. “But he got into contention at Augusta when he came back, and people loved it, and people loved that he might win and people loved that he was a winner.
“And after everything went down, I was like, people like winners. People like people that are successful, and it’s okay to be one of those people. It’s okay to have that ruthless streak.”
People do like people who are successful, but this season one of those people is not McIlroy. His stop-start season came to yet another stop after he missed the cut at Erin Hills for the U.S. Open. Not seeing him in the final round of a major is disappointing, but McIlroy rebounded with a top-20 finish at the Traveler’s Championship, bringing in a hefty $83,111.12.
He had to squeeze every ounce of confidence from his 17th-place finish a week ago, and again reiterated his “me-first” mentality telling the world that he was going to do whatever it took to make it to Sunday.
“You don’t have to feel like you’re selfish or you’re better. It’s that you want to win,” McIlroy said. “The reason we practice and we work hard is because you want to win golf tournaments and hopefully put your name in the history books, and sort of when it hit home with me, I said, it’s okay to have that mindset.”
So, what went wrong? Why didn’t that mindset work for McIlroy this week. For starters, he was four strokes shy of making the cut. Four strokes he could have lost on the green. Short game struggles are nothing new for McIlroy, and he ended Friday 1-over.
“I’m frustrated,” McIlroy said after his final round Friday. “I felt like I was making some good ground – obviously not getting close to the lead, but being around for the weekend.
“I’m just not being very efficient with my scoring and that’s why I’m making it difficult for myself. Just need to tidy up the short game a little bit; I feel like the long game is there.”
McIlroy is keenly aware of all aspects of his game: the mental part where you can now expect him to be even more ruthless (something everyone knows isn’t a trait he’s lacking) and the game itself. If he can finally pull it together and gain some confidence on the green then the Open should make for some good golf from Ror.