ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | Over the past 23 months, Rory McIlroy has won one golf tournament.
He won brilliantly at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, shooting 64 on Sunday at Bay Hill, turning the early spring air electric with his finish. It was vintage McIlroy, spectacular and seemingly easy at the same time.
Yet as the PGA Championship begins Thursday, there is a sense that McIlroy could have done more. Should have done more.
It’s the burden of being Rory McIlroy.
“I’ve kept giving myself chances this year,” said McIlroy, who is four years removed from the most recent of his four major championship victories. “I haven’t closed out those tournaments as I would have liked but at least I’m putting myself in position and that’s all I can do.”
Then McIlroy added he needs to finish better. That’s the missing piece in his 2018 résumé.
He finished T5 at the Masters but shot 74 with a chance to win on Sunday. He missed the cut at the Players Championship and the U.S. Open. McIlroy was in the mix on the closing nine at the Open Championship before Francesco Molinari nailed it shut, and he shot a disappointing 73 last Sunday in the final pairing with winner Justin Thomas at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
On the European Tour, he finished T3 at Abu Dhabi, second in Dubai and second at the BMW PGA Championship.
Good. Not great.
“I’ve done a lot of good things. The only thing I haven’t done is win enough. I’ve played in a lot of final groups and I haven’t played well enough when it’s counted,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy has moved from 11th to fifth in the world ranking this year and he’s a popular pick on the eve of this PGA Championship because he’s in good form, Bellerive will play soft from recent rains and the big greens are on the slow side, factors which tend to play in his favor.
He continues to work on inconsistency in his wedge play, and his putting remains a work in progress. McIlroy ranks 78th on Tour in strokes gained putting but he’s outside the top 110 from eight to 10 feet ,where birdies tend to live.
“He’s going through that spell that all players go through at some stage where, yeah, not quite winning them but we’re still there. And then eventually when he wins that one, then I think he’ll just start rolling again,” European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn said.
Asked if he would prefer a year like he’s having or one in which he won a major championship with a dozen missed cuts and no more high finishes, McIlroy opted for his 2018 season.
“I would rather have the year I’m having and persevere with it,” McIlroy said. “It’s not as if my game’s in bad shape at all, it’s just that I haven’t won as much as I’d like. But there’s still plenty of time to change that.”