Rory McIlroy longs to “get back to being pure golf again”, and Paul McGinley claims his fellow Irishman’s missed cut here at the Players Championship was due to “all the bullets” he was forced to take on behalf of the PGA Tour. .
Thunderstorms on Friday meant McIlroy had to return on Saturday morning to complete his second round, and despite playing the remaining eight holes at a low one, he still fell within three strokes of reaching the final two rounds, with a 73 leaving him tied for 98th place in five more.
Clearly the performance was not what he expected after finishing second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday and his disappointment was more than not being able to compete for this $4.5 million top prize.
This was his last appearance in stroke play before the Masters in four weeks, where he will have his ninth career Grand Slam attempt. He has a lot of range work to do, particularly his driving which has been unusually sloppy since wear and tear on him forced him to retire the former driver from him.
But first you must rest. McIlroy has been acting as the unofficial spokesperson for the sweeping tour overhaul introduced in response to the LIV Golf threat.
As a member of the board of directors, he attended a seven-hour meeting last Tuesday and more than anyone – including, it must be said, commissioner Jay Monahan – has faced the press to justify the controversial changes that since the Next season will see eight “designated events” with limited 70-78 courses, no cuts and a minimum of $20 million in purses.
McGinley doesn’t think this was fair to the world number 3. “This is not Rory’s Tour, this is not Tiger’s Tour, this is not Jay Monahan’s Tour,” McGinley said on the Golf Channel.
“This Tour is owned by the players, and if this is going to work and these new ‘designated events’ are going to work, everyone has to row in the back. You can’t just have a spokesperson and let him take all the bullets, everyone has to be there supporting and driving this ship.
Maybe I have sacrificed time with some of these other things.
“One of the hallmarks of his golf over the past 14 months has been his ability to focus. We’ve admired this from a distance, with everything going on and him front and center. It’s pretty amazing what he’s accomplished. I just think Rory is tired and he’s out of battery. We saw some clumsiness from him here and that’s a sign you’re not focused.
McIlroy acknowledged his fatigue and agreed that McGinley’s comments “are fair.” “I would love to be a golfer again,” he said. “Look, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and honestly, it’s been a busy six or eight months. But it’s all been announced now, and the wheels have turned, so it should calm down from here.
“It’s just time management. Golf here is fine, but it’s more time at home to make sure you’re preparing, to make sure you’re doing everything you can to be ready once you get to these weeks. That’s where maybe I’ve sacrificed a little bit of time with some of this other stuff. Like I said, I’m ready to go back to being purely a golfer.”
McIlroy will visit Augusta for a reconnaissance trip next week and then compete in the WGC Match Play in Austen. “[It’s] just making sure my game is on shape and making sure I get every opportunity for Augusta,” he said. “So I’ll go there for a couple of days and reacquaint myself with the course. See, I wish I didn’t have to gamble with a new controller and I wish I could use the old one, but yeah, it is what it is.
“And it’s not as big of a concern in Augusta as it was here. There’s a little more room off the tee, and to be fair, maybe I’ve been trying to put too much driver pressure on the fairway here instead of just taking a couple less clubs and hitting three woods or five woods or two irons or whatever.
“But still, you don’t want a big mishit on the bag. You look at the puck I hit on the 18th [that led to a closing bogey five], and that’s too wide to fail. It’s things like that that I need to work on.”
McIlroy played alongside Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, with the top three ranked players having contrasting experiences. Rahm withdrew before the second round due to a stomach virus. McIlroy missed his first cut in seven months. Scheffler entered the third round in second place at seven under par, two behind Canada’s Adam Svensson.
Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, knows he will be ranked No. 1 in the world again if he finishes in the top five.