Rory McIlroy hasn’t repeated success amid changes to his game, life
BY HERB GOULD Staff Reporter September 10, 2013 9:53PM
FILE - In this July 19, 2013, Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after putting on the second green during the second round of the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland. McIlroy figures he needs to finish among the top seven against a 70-man field at the BMW Championship this weekend to be among the 30 players who advance to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10 million prize. That doesn't sound so hard, except it would be his best finish in five months. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)
AT A GLANCE
What: 2013 BMW Championship, third leg of PGA’s FedExCup playoffs.
When: Thursday through Sunday; practice rounds and pro-ams Wednesday.
Where: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest.
The field: Top 70 players in the FedEx Cup rankings, competing for $8 million purse, including
$1.44 million to champion. Top 30 players are eligible for Tour championship in Atlanta.
TV: Golf Channel, 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; Golf Channel, noon to 2 p.m. Saturday; Ch. 5, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday; Golf Channel, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; Ch. 5, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information: bmwchampionshipusa.com or (847) 724-4600.
Updated: September 10, 2013 9:53PM
The last time Rory McIlroy played here, he almost didn’t play here.
Confused by time zones, McIlroy needed a hot-running police escort to arrive just a few minutes before his Ryder Cup singles match at Medinah last September. With no warmup, he still cooled off a hot Keegan Bradley, 2 and 1.
It was that kind of year for McIlroy.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman won three of his last five tournaments before the Ryder Cup, all of them heavyweights, by a combined 53 under par. After capturing his second major, the PGA at Kiawah (13 under), he added two FedEx Cup events, the Deutsche Bank (20 under) in Boston and the BMW (20 under) at Crooked Stick near Indianapolis.
That was then. The man who had eight top-five finishes, including four wins, in 16 events last year arrives at the BMW at Conway Farms in Lake Forest with no wins and just one top-five finish in 15 tournaments this year.
Some critics point to McIlroy’s high-profile switch from Titleist to Nike, which likes to flaunt its one-two superstar punch of Tiger Woods and McIlroy.
“It’s one thing to change your driver or your wedge,’’ television analyst Johnny Miller told the San Francisco Chronicle, ‘‘but you’re asking for huge trouble when you change all your clubs and your golf ball at the same time.”
McIlroy admits the switch has come at a price.
‘‘It’s probably been a longer transition period than I expected,’’ he said, ‘‘but it’s totally fine. I’m really happy with my game. I feel I’m playing better than the results have suggested.’’
The Nike move is only one tricky component in McIlroy’s ascending stardom. Mix in dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and winning two of the last 10 majors — all under the watchful eye of the golf-crazy United Kingdom media — and McIlroy has had a lot on his plate.
In addition, there’s more than one L of a difference between his hometown of Holywood, Northern Ireland, and the movie capital of the world.
U.S. Open champion Justin Rose said all the directional tugs seem to be making it more difficult for McIlroy to dig in and master his new equipment.
‘‘It’s just the word ‘change,’ really,’’ Rose said. ‘‘He’s had a lot to adapt to in his life. You have to find your inner balance and get quiet in your own mind. When there’s a lot going on around you, it’s hard to be 100 percent focused on your game. But he’ll get there. He has a great head on his shoulders. He’s just in a period where he has to ride it out and let it come to him.’’
Even last year, McIlroy went through a seven-tournament dry spell in which he missed three cuts and finished 40th and 60th in two other events.
“I’m a confident person,’’ he said. ‘‘But when some tournaments don’t go your way, your confidence is going to get knocked a bit. Winning, as well, is a habit. That’s a habit I’m trying to get back into. Confidence-wise, I don’t think I’m very far away. I feel like my game is in pretty good shape. It’s just a matter of letting it happen on the golf course.