The 2017 PGA Tour season was not one to write home about for Rory McIlroy. The four-time major champion went winless for the first time since 2013.
McIlroy married his wife Eric Stoll in April, in what was called the ‘wedding of the decade’ by Golf.com. This wedding reception was the definition of lavish. The couple and their guests celebrated at Ashford Castle in Ireland, where they had both Stevie Wonder and Ed Sheeran perform. Since this wedding was no joking matter, it probably took some of Rory’s attention off of golf.
The Irishman also suffered a rib injury during the season that continued to linger even after he was cleared to play. Fellow Tour player, Dustin Johnson knows that feeling and predicts that McIlroy is in for a monster season in 2018.
“I think he will be back to his best this year,” Johnson said. “He struggled with injuries, which is tough, so I know what he is going through. I got injured at the Masters this year and it lingered for a long time. So I think Rory is just fine and he’ll be back playing well this year.”
It Begins: PGA Tour Card
McIlroy only needed two events to earn his European Tour card, which is the least amount of events needed in history for a player to accomplish that feat. But prior to him earning his professional status, the Irishman enjoyed an amateur career that was filled with some notable milestones.
McIlroy’s father knew his son had a gift but wasn’t sure how to harness it and teach his son how to become an elite golfer. The elder McIlroy enlisted the help of Michael Bannon, the head professional at Holywood Golf Club. The golf club where a seven-year-old Rory would begin his career path.
Bannon has stayed as McIlroy’s swing coach since that time and has recordings of McIlroy’s swing as it has progressed through time. With the help of Bannon, McIlroy (9 years old) won the age 9-10 World Championship in 1998. He would record his first hole-in-one a year later in 1999.
By the age of 16 in 2005, McIlroy would go on to shoot an 11-under 61 at in the Magners North of Ireland Championship. It was around this time that McIlroy began making headlines, but he wouldn’t start drawing comparisons to his idol, Tiger Woods, until his first major championship.
First Victory And Those That Followed
Fast forward five years into the future where McIlroy would join the PGA Tour in the 2010 season as a 21-year-old. A couple weeks after missing the cut at his first Masters tournament, McIlroy would win the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow – shooting a course record 62 in the final round.
After the win, McIlroy expressed how much this first PGA Tour victory meant to him:
“Winning in the US is hugely important to me,” McIlroy said. “A win is special anywhere, of course, but to beat such a strong American field at Quail Hollow gives me great confidence that my game is strong enough for any field, anywhere in the world.”
That would be McIlroy’s only win in 2010, but he did have an impressive run towards the end of the season as he finished 3rd at both The Open and PGA Championship.
McIlroy began to draw comparisons to Woods when he won the 2011 U.S. Open a year later. He won this first major by a margin of 8 strokes (16 under par total), which would be the lowest aggregated score in U.S. Open history. His 16-under tournament finish shattered Woods’ 12-under record set in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Drama On And Off The Course:
The only notable drama that happened to McIlroy off the course was his Twitter battle with Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee and his split up with then fiancé Caroline Wozniacki.
The analyst criticized McIlroy’s weight training and said the golf star should be ‘wary’ of what happened to Tiger Woods during the middle of his career when he started to suffer injuries that could be linked to aggressive weight lifting regimens.
This issue is one of McIlroy’s pet-peeves so he decided to respond via Twitter with a video of himself squatting 200-plus pounds.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) February 16, 2016
A bit of a silent ‘screw you’ to Chamblee. Since then, McIlroy has continued to lift weights but the injuries he has suffered have not been nearly to the same capacity as Woods’ injuries.
His break up with Wozniacki was a bit strange because the two were supposed to be married in 2014 but McIlroy broke it off with Wozniacki after the wedding invitations were already sent out. Apparently that was a weight lifted off his shoulders because he went on to win The Open and PGA Championship later that year.
That past relationship was brought up this year as McIlroy was set to marry his new bride Erica Stoll. McIlroy was quoted saying:
“The thing I love about it is that we were friends before anything romantic happened,” said McIlroy. “We met when she was working for the PGA of America and renting a condo in Palm Beach, and I found it refreshing being with someone who was living a normal life rather than, ‘Oh! My jet is 30 minutes late!’
“But it isn’t because you can never get away from it. You can never detach yourself and try to come back to the real world. And that’s why I feel in such a good place now. I don’t feel Erica wants to change me in any way. I can be myself around her; there’s no bulls–t, no acting, no show.”
Wozniacki was left to scratch her head and was quoted with the following rebuttal:
“I don’t understand why he keeps bringing it up. Was I surprised? Yes, it’s a little dead by now. It’s three years ago.”
Maybe that break-up wasn’t as subtle as people thought it was.
Stats And Where They Are Now:
As mentioned earlier, this wasn’t a great year for McIlroy in terms of scoring, even though he did finish with a respectable six Top-10 finishes (two coming in majors).
What was pretty remarkable was the power surge McIlroy had in 2017…guess those weightlifting sessions are actually paying off. He led the the PGA Tour in driving distance last season, averaging 317.2 yards off the tee. That was two yards better than Dustin Johnson, which is very impressive given Rory’s 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame.
But it’s a catch-22 as his driving accuracy was only at 55.05 percent in 2017. Something that he can work on as he approaches the 2018 season.
What The Future Holds:
It seems like people have forgotten about ol’ Rory McIlroy after just one down season where a few new players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas rise to the top.
— Global Golf Post (@GlobalGolfPost) October 12, 2017
Heed Dustin Johnson’s words that 2018 could be a special one for McIlroy. An injury-free and distraction-free Rory McIlroy could wreak havoc on the PGA Tour this season as he inches himself closer to double-digit majors.