Eubanks: McIlroy must fully commit to game
Rory McIlroy struggled again Friday, and people again are asking what's wrong. The short answer, says Steve Eubanks, is that nothing is wrong that a little more maturity and focus won't fix.
By Steve Eubanks, PGA.com
Another major, another uncomfortable battery of questions for a young man on whom so many great expectations have been heaped.
Rory McIlroy struggled again, following up his solid opening round 67 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a not-very-good 75 on Friday to just squeak into the weekend.
He hadn’t made it to the 18th green yet when the murmurs of “What’s wrong with Rory?” filtered through the golf world.
The short answer is: Nothing is wrong that a little more maturity and focus won’t fix. Certainly, McIlroy has had difficulty finding his footing on the major stage since capturing the U.S. Open at Congressional 13 long months ago.
He shot 74-75 on the weekend in Sandwich last year to finish tied for 25th, and then almost broke his wrist on a tree root at Atlanta Athletic Club in the PGA Championship. His weekend at Augusta National this year was even worse. He shot 77-76 that Saturday and Sunday in April after playing himself into contention in the first two rounds.
But at least he got to play that weekend. In San Francisco, he went home early, missing the cut at the U.S. Open a year after his record-setting win.
The silver lining for McIlroy is the fact that his swing mechanics are fine. Unlike the slump Tiger Woods has clawed his way out of -- where his focus was poor but his golf swing was worse -- McIlroy continues to swing the club beautifully. His effortless power is a model to be studied and mimicked.
His problem is his focus, or lack thereof.
After his Friday round, he said, “I wasn’t committing to my tee shots and it was two minds a few times about what shots to hit off tees. I just really (have to) commit to it and try to get the ball in the fairway.”
Commitment is difficult when you’re 23 years old and you already have a major championship trophy and a beautiful, rich, famous girlfriend at home; when your every step is covered by the British tabloids like you’re Mick Jagger and your every swing is analyzed like the Zapruder film.
But commitment and focus are what McIlroy needs if he is to reach the full potential of his talent. He will have to learn to tune out all the distractions around him and create an insular world where only he and his confidence reside.
Arnold Palmer was able to focus and commit and still maintain a great on-course relationship with his fans. Jack Nicklaus was so focused that his sons would have to remind him to wave to the cheering crowds as he walked by. Tiger’s focus is legendary, much to the consternation of his fellow competitors, while Phil Mickelson often lets his need to try thrilling shots distract him from the commitment he has to score.
McIlroy has two more days to redeem himself at Lytham. But he will need to change his thinking.
After Friday’s round he said, “I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty good on the range. I was losing a few to the left, so maybe that’s why I was trying to protect that one and maybe why I missed a couple to the right early on.”
The lesson he needs to learn has nothing to do with the golf swing. What he will have to do to win again is realize that “maybe” won’t cut it in major championships. On this stage, only full commitment will do.