Can McIlroy ever rediscover his peak form in a major?
Rory McIlroy has suggested that he may have already peaked in his golfing career. The Northern Irishman has not won a major in six years – which is far too long a drought for a player of his calibre.
There have been 21 majors since McIlroy last triumphed in the PGA Championship where he defeated Phil Mickelson at Valhalla Golf Club. Now at the age of 31, McIlroy is no longer the upstart on the rise. Indeed as he has claimed – it’s evident that his trajectory has plateaued.
At one stage, McIlroy was on the pace to reach double figures in major wins. And although the Northern Irishman has still produced a great career on the course, there is a case to be made that he has not been able to fulfil his true potential.
There is ample time for McIlroy to win further majors, and as he matures in all aspects of his game, further success could well come his way. Some players have not even sniffed a major win at the age of 31 – never mind having four crowns to their name.
An important aspect of McIlroy’s hopes of winning majors in the future is that he has always remained in contention – his game has not dropped off dramatically. He won four events on the PGA Tour in 2019, including The Players Championship, Tour Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions – defeating Xander Schauffele in a playoff to secure the latter tournament. As a result, he was one of the leading contenders in the odds on the US Open golf betting with Betfair albeit behind Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Schauffele.
At the peak of his powers, McIlroy is more than capable of lifting a major, although his consistency over four days at the leading competitions has been lacking. The Northern Irishman has produced outstanding rounds of golf in short bursts – notably at The Open in 2018 when he finished only two strokes off the pace of Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie.
Perhaps his biggest missed opportunity of late came in the 2018 Masters, which has exemplified his recent issues on the big stage. McIlroy was only two shots behind Patrick Reed heading into the final round at Augusta.
He made a solid start to his round by birdieing the second, only to drop the shot at the third. McIlroy atoned for his mistake at the fourth, reaching 12-under, but that was as good as it got for him on the day as he proceeded to drop three strokes, failing to contend for the Green Jacket.
McIlroy remains one of the leading golfers on the circuit, but the talent on the scene is improving with the recent success of Collin Morikawa, while others such as Bryson Dechambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Daniel Berger are all waiting to pounce. That’s without factoring in the quality of Johnson, Rahm, Thomas, Schauffele, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth and of course Tiger Woods.
There will not be an easy path back to the top for McIlroy as he enters a new phase in his career. He still has the quality, but piecing altogether on the course is the challenge that he must overcome to end his six-year drought without a major.
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