Pittsford, N.Y. — About six weeks ago — that is, before he missed the Masters Tournament, went on a voluntary hiatus, and tied for 47th at the Wells Fargo Championship — Rory McIlroy spoke about pie. At the time, he seemed poised to win the big bucks again, oozing as much confidence in him as he did before his Thanksgiving dessert became a fire hazard.
“We’ve got all the ingredients to make the pie,” McIlroy said at Augusta National Golf Club, but his career Grand Slam ambitions have stalled again. “You just throw in all the ingredients, set the oven to the right temperature, and let it all happen.”
The PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club this week is his second major event of the year, but the two-time PGA Champion cannot be promoted to the Grand Slam fraternity. But a win or a good run would put doubts around McIlroy to rest. McIlroy is number three in the official World Golf Rankings, but has been forever overshadowed by his failure to win a major since 2014. Doubts only intensify in 2023. It started with a win in Dubai, but then oscillated between a great result and a heady disappointment.
Despite being an Oak Hill member, McIlroy lives in Florida and was reluctant to declare any home course advantage. Rather than having his prospects rest on a slew of good people, he says he’s criticized for the harsh distractions of critics, history, and perhaps the noise surrounding his position as the leading spokesman for the PGA Tour. It is well understood that it depends on the appropriate elimination of The era of professional golf turbulence.
On Tuesday, he seemed to want nothing to do with the uncertainty of the sport (his six-word answer to the 34-word question was “I don’t have a crystal ball”). He also didn’t want to think about whether the post-Masters break paid off. (“I don’t know,” he replied. “I needed it at the time. I don’t know yet if it will work this week.”)
But perhaps more evidently, he was also a top-level athlete who openly dealt with the feeling that he needed to play with lower expectations, not higher ones. His bravado was immense, and there was an air of confidence that was neither stifling nor sacred.
“I think it wasn’t Augusta’s performance that was difficult to bounce back from, but rather the mental side and the depression that followed, and trying to get my mind back in the right place to start moving forward again.” After that, he said, “I’m just going to go out and try to play the first hole of the tournament well. I’m going to do it,” he added.
His swing has generated a lot of interest in recent weeks, so he may soon be able to see his potential. His woes, as he summed it up on Tuesday, were, “The clubface opened a little too much on the way home, and I struggled a lot to square the face down and then reclosed it a little too quickly.” That’s what it means. Accurately pinpoint issues that most driving ranges go unnoticed, or at least unfixed.
In a forum like the PGA Championship, such struggles separate the elite from the crowded crowds of 156 competitors. McIlroy pointed out that the exact timing of his swing could be the difference between whether the ball flies 20 yards left or 20 yards right, but has done little to pursue a fix. McIlroy, a four-time major champion, spent last week in Florida with a coach, avoiding the FaceTime analysis that underpins much of a modern professional career.
McIlroy insists it’s being adjusted rather than overhauled, and that “nothing needs to change fundamentally.” He is probably right. Because golf is happy or betrayed by warnings alone. Jon Rahm’s March included a tie for 39th, a tournament withdrawal, and a tie for 31st. Then came April and the Masters green jacket.
“There are ups and downs,” Rahm said on Tuesday, reflecting broadly on the challenges of maintaining success in sports, especially in a fickle sport like golf.
“Tiger has had downs,” he later said of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods. “Maybe his down was shorter, maybe he had a different down in his heart, but everyone had a down. It’s part of the sport. I hope. – As a player, I think you have to hope your lowest score isn’t as low as other people’s.”
McIlroy hasn’t missed two major cuts in a calendar year since 2016, and hasn’t missed any consecutive major cuts since 2010. Beyond a calibrated swing and clearer thinking, this week’s recipe for avoiding a return to those dark days is your go-to. Discipline and patience and his 78 bunker detours on the course.
He’s more humble this time around, confident he’s close to a breakthrough.
“I still believe that I’m one of the best players in the world if I can do it the way I think I can and I can produce good golf to have a chance to win this week,” he said.
But he says that being defined by any of the scorecards is past, beyond the need for the ferocious mindset that drove him to his final PGA Championship victory in 2014. suggested.
“Even if I don’t win another tournament for the rest of my career, I consider my career a success,” McIlroy said. “In my eyes, I’m still standing here as a successful person. That’s what defines it.”
But he didn’t mind eating the pie.