10 years ago Rory McIlroy claimed the silver medal for the lowest amateur at the 2007 Open Championship, later that year he turned professional. His story since has been one of unquestionable success; McIlroy won 4 major titles before the age of 25, an achievement only equaled by a select few of the game’s greats.
However, there has remained a feeling amongst golf fans that McIlroy’s potential is yet to be fully realized. Failure to win a tournament this season resulted in a break-up with long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald. Now ranked number 8 in the world, his lowest in 3 years, McIlroy must arrest the decline in his golf game and recover the form that brought him so much early success.
Rory McIlroy's swing through the years pic.twitter.com/2JUOuo4x7i
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 18, 2017
The frustration for golf fans and Rory alike is that when on his day, McIlroy’s golf is near perfection; colossal drives followed by immaculate ball-striking, a trend we have come to expect from the talented 28-year-old. During his US Open triumph at Congressional in 2011, it was difficult to foresee a time where Rory would not be dominating the game. He dismantled the field, claiming victory by an 8 stroke margin. All whilst exuding a level of swagger and showmanship golf had not witnessed since Tiger Woods.
Nonetheless, McIlroy is a streaky player. Although he has been on tour for a decade, all his major successes have come in just two of those years. This is hardly the level of dominance people expected when the promising Northern Irishman turned pro. At the same time, fellow competitors, particularly Jordan Spieth and more recently Justin Thomas, have upped their level of consistency in the big events.
McIlroy switched allegiances to Taylormade back in May which didn’t seem to improve his results. Failure to make the cut at the US Open was disappointing, but it was compounded weeks later by yet more missed cuts. First, at the Irish Open, an event McIlroy was hosting nonetheless and the following week at the Scottish Open.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) May 9, 2017
At the end of last year, McIlroy gave us a brief glimpse of his talent. During the final round of the Tour Championship, he holed out a 9-iron from the 16th fairway, securing an unlikely playoff against Ryan Moore. He defeated the American after a four-hole epic to clinch the FedEx Cup trophy.
Who could forget McIlroy’s display at last years Ryder Cup? His sensational eagle secured Europe the final point of the day one Four-balls. It was followed by an unforgettably audacious bow, taunting the American fans.
McIlroy now finds his career at a bit of a crossroads, the coming year feels like a defining one. He has played the last few tournaments with his close friend Harry Diamond on the bag, however, this doesn’t appear to be a long-term solution.
McIlroy has told the media that he intends to take a 3-month break from the game at the end of the year. This should allow him time to recover physically and rid himself of the rib injury which affected him throughout the summer. It should also grant him time to adjust to life with a new caddie, whoever that may be. It goes without saying that JP played a significant role in McIlroy’s early success; forging such a relationship will not be easy, but McIlroy clearly believes that such a change may inspire a return to form.
Following his failure to qualify for this weekend’s Tour Championship at East Lake, McIlroy somewhat unexpectedly accepted an invitation to play in the British Masters. Ironically, this was the first event he participated in as a young professional in 2007. It is a positive sign, indicative of a man who is trying to return to his golfing roots in the hope of reinvigorating some form.
Don’t be surprised if a recharged and refocused Rory returns next April to put on the Green Jacket which has eluded him for so long.