In 2007, when an 18-year-old Rory McIlroy first turned professional, the hopes for the Northern Irishman were sky high. Now, ten years on, people can’t help but feel the 28-year-old has failed to live up to his expected potential.
Had he not been British, would everybody still be sat here praising him to the high heavens and suggesting his three years without a major trophy have been ‘just a blip’? Maybe yes, maybe no, who knows.
Jordan Spieth doesn’t get the same amount of praise as McIlroy, despite almost equalling McIlroy’s achievements and exceeding the high expectations there were of him by winning the FedEx and 3 majors, all by the age of 23.
Despite Spieth doing everything as well if not better than the Northern Irishman, he doesn’t get the same recognition from most. Rory’s towering 350 yard drives often cover the PGA Tour’s Instagram feed, but that seems to be all he’s been good at lately, hitting it long. It’s course management, grinding and mental strength that he needs to improve, something he did use to find extremely easy, and something Spieth is certainly superior at.
He did also use to be phenomenal with a wedge in his hand, but it has been an element of McIlroy’s game which has declined quite dramatically, particularly this season. Whereas Spieth’s short game and pitching has continued to reach new heights as they year has gone on.
This season, McIlroy has worse statistics than last year in most areas of his game and 2016 was far from his greatest season up until the play-offs. He has got even worse at putting, going from 135th to 141st, dropped from 36th to 62nd around the green, and gone from 99th to 145th from 100-125 yards out.
On the other hand, Spieth has gone from 87th to 1st in approaches to the green, improved from 24th to 15th around the green and moved up to 2nd from 26th from tee to green. The areas of his game which were weak last year, unlike McIlroy, he has enhanced.
The American won his first major at a younger age than the Northern Irishman, he won the FedEx Cup before him, and could even complete the grand slam by winning all four majors before him whilst being four years younger.
However, almost every week he plays, McIlroy’s ball striking and driving gets a dedicated hour on Sky Sports, rather than Spieth who is grinding his way to more victories and majors in the past three seasons. Just ball striking didn’t help Sergio win majors despite his talent, why will it be different for Rory?
The real problem with McIlroy currently is that he just isn’t competing for major championships, unlike Spieth who seems to be in contention in almost every one. In 2015, for the two majors Rory participated in, he finished in the top 10 for both. However, he still finished six shots behind Spieth at the Masters and five shots behind him again at the US Open, even after closing with 66’s in both events.
Finishing strong has become a feature of the Northern Irishman’s game, but it seems to be because he’s always chasing a poor start to a tournament. His results in the 2016 majors were similar, as he finished with great final rounds to creep into the top 10.
A missed cut at the US Open, an unconvincing PGA Championship and two missed cuts in Europe in 2017 suggest the Northern Irishman is struggling to fit the mould of the man everyone expected him to be, where it seemed he would be chasing at least Tiger Woods’s major record. But it is Spieth who now seems to have overtaken that mantle. He has this year won his third major, won two other events and came second in the FedEx Cup standings, compared to Rory’s zero.
If Rory is SO good, which everybody makes clear so often, especially Paul McGinley, how has he not even come close to winning any majors since 2014? Is the 28-year-old a bit overhyped, a bit overrated?
McIlroy will be taking a break after the Alfred Dunhill Links and hopes to come back fresh next season. I would just like to make clear I am a big fan of Rory, and would love to see him back winning majors or at least contending, but his current form for someone so gifted surely asks some questions.
How long will it be until we see Rory McIlroy win another major championship?
Sports journalism student, Sergio's #1 fan and a lover of a snap hook!