Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Will Rory snap out of his slump this week at Oak Hill?

  • Print
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts on the 17th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Pittsford, N.Y.

JULIO CORTEZ / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts on the 17th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in Pittsford, N.Y.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The curls no longer spilled from under his cap, a big change for Rory McIlroy. Prompted to reveal the rest of his free haircut, he removed his hat and wild brown locks sprang to life.

"Still a little bit on the top," he said Wednesday with an easy smile.

Only then did McIlroy resemble the Boy Wonder who dominated golf last summer, starting with his win at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record margin. He didn't walk down the fairways that week, he bounced. He was No. 1 in the world, and looked every bit the part.

McIlroy would love to rediscover that kid at Oak Hill this week.

In its place is a 24-year-old from Northern Ireland who has reason to feel much older. He hasn't won a tournament, and only once did he even come close. He has finished over par in all three majors, with only two rounds at the British Open. He has failed to make the cut five times this year, which includes walking off the course in the Honda Classic with sore wisdom teeth that still haven't been removed.

Among betting favourites, he was second only to Tiger Woods at the Masters at 5-to-1. For the PGA Championship, the odds are 30-to-1, higher than two players (Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker) who have never won a major.

And he can't wait to get to the first tee this afternoon.

Inspiration comes from videos he has been watching of his eight-shot win at Kiawah Island, along with his back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff wins against some of the strongest fields of the year. Some of what he noticed was technical, such as the position of his club in the swing. What really stood out was the body language.

"It's how you carry yourself. It's all that sort of stuff, your little mannerisms," McIlroy said. "I guess it's just trying to remember those feelings and remember how I felt that week and trying to carry some of that into this week and just get those good, positive thoughts going.

"I think everyone sees when I walk and I'm playing well, I have that little bounce in my step."

What would go a lot longer at Oak Hill is keeping the ball in play on a traditional, tree-lined course -- so many trees that even being in the fairway doesn't mean a clear shot at the green if the ball is slightly out of position. The greens are small and slope toward the front. Oak Hill is a hard golf course, and the evidence comes from the previous five majors held on this Donald Ross design -- only 10 players in those five majors have finished under par.

"This may be the toughest golf course, but the fairest golf course that we play," said Tom Watson, playing this major for the 32nd time. "Somebody is going to win this thing, and that person is going to play awfully well, awfully good golf this week. Wish I could say that's me."

Watson was joking. Not so funny is that the way McIlroy's year has gone, there isn't much reason to believe it could be him, either.

Most of the attention is on Woods, even though he has gone five years and 17 majors without winning one. Woods won the Bridgestone Invitational last week by seven shots, sparked by a 61 in the second round that tied his personal best. That gave Woods five wins this year, which is five more than McIlroy.

Phil Mickelson opened with a 65 in 2003 the last time the PGA Championship was played at Oak Hill until fading badly in one of his worst seasons as a pro. He is coming off an astounding win at the British Open, where his 66 in the final round is regarded as one of the best closing rounds in a major. If he could pick off another PGA Championship, Mickelson would be a shoo-in as PGA Tour player of the year, an award he has never won.

McIlroy, meanwhile, has been largely forgotten through ordinary play and endless questions about a season gone wrong from his opening tournament when he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. Some of his troubles have been attributed to a wholesale equipment change, others to his decision to change management companies.

McIlroy said his switch to Nike is no longer an excuse, not with 15 tournaments under his belt. He says it has taken longer than usual to work his way out of bad habits.

"I guess every time you play and you don't play well, it sort of chips away at your confidence a little bit," he said.

McIlroy has gone through this before. Only a year ago, he had gone five months without a win and missed the cut in four out of five tournaments. With a spark at Firestone, he showed up at Kiawah Island and overwhelmed the strongest field in golf in ways only Woods used to do.

"I love proving people wrong," McIlroy said.

Despite all the scrutiny -- on everything from his new equipment to new management, to girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and moving from Northern Ireland to south Florida -- McIlroy hasn't dodged the questions for which he has no tangible answers.

"I'd definitely rather be up here talking about more positive things, but I guess that's the way it is," McIlroy said. "As I said, it would be nicer just to sit up here, talk about some more positive things. But the way the year's gone, it's understandable why I'm not."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 6:53 AM CDT: Replaces photos

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

In the Key of Bart: Can’t It Be Nice This Time?

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.
  • JJOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-Postcard  Day-Horror frost and fog created a most beautiful setting at Assiniboine Park Thursday morning in WInnipeg- Enviroent Canada says the fog will lifet this morning and will see a high of -7C-  JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Feb 18, 2010

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Raptors can come back and beat the Nets in their playoff series?

View Results

Ads by Google