Paul McGinley reflects on Rory McIlroy’s return to the winner’s circle at the Wells Fargo Championship and looks at whether it can mark the start of a major-winning season for the former world No 1.
There weren’t many signs that a win for McIlroy was coming, given his recent form, but the thing about Rory is that his game can go from being on a downward trend to suddenly taking a positive turn.
Rory’s career has always been somewhat topsy-turvy and it hasn’t been a straight line to the very top of the game for him, at any stage, as there have always been ups and downs along the way.
When something inspiring happens, we normally see him ignite as a player. In this instance, it could be the work with a new coach in Pete Cowen, the work he has been doing with the sports psychologist Bob Rotella, the return of sizeable crowds like we saw last week at Quail Hollow, or a combination of all of these new things.
He won at Quail Hollow with his short game, where he was third in the putting statistics and first in scrambling. It wasn’t his long game that led him over the line, as is normally the case when he wins. We know he can play much better from tee-to-green, so in a way that’s a great shift and gives great optimism for the rest of the year.
He showed a lot of resilience, particularly on the final day, to get over the line and we’re all delighted to see him back at the top of the game again.
I remember Tom Weiskopf saying ‘when I’m playing well, I can never imagine how I ever played so badly. And when I play badly, I can never imagine how I played so great’. That’s certainly something McIlroy can relate to more than most, as when he’s good he’s phenomenal but then he can also disappear from contention for a while.
I really think he’s on a great trajectory now. I love that the idea that he’s working with Rotella and I think that’s a great addition to his team. All of us in the media are quick to discuss Rory when he’s showing bad form, but just look at his record and what he has already achieved in the game.
He’s always going to be compared to Tiger Woods, certainly in the modern era, but when you look at all the big tournaments across the European Tour and PGA Tour he has won the lot. He has also won three of the four majors, so it’s just The Masters that’s eluding him in what is already a phenomenal career.
It’s a welcome return for McIlroy and we will have our eyes now on Kiawah Island and him trying to add a major title that he hasn’t done since 2014, but at a golf course where he has excelled and won on in the past.
This won’t be the only up and down we’ll see in the rest of Rory McIlroy’s career, as it’s bound to happen again, but he will likely start an upward trend now and it would be no surprise to see him knock off a major before the end of the year.
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He has talked about having his work ethic in the right place, a product of a belief and inspiration of a new direction. I think we’re in for a good summer now for McIlroy.
He’s on his way back up the ladder after 18 months of mediocrity. With these new sources of inspiration in place, I’m expecting to see some good form from him and particularly some additions to his major haul of four wins.
Will McIlroy add to his major tally at the PGA Championship this month? Watch live from May 20-23 on Sky Sports Golf!
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