Rory McIlroy has had some years on and off the course and it’s a combination of both technical and psychological improvements that can lead to him finally ending his Major drought in 2023.
It’s been eight long years since McIlroy won the last of his four Major titles, but he showed incredible consistency this year when finishing in the top eight of all four Majors.
There was huge disappointment, of course, as he led the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews only to be beaten in the end by a flying finish from Cameron Smith.
McIlroy had a late flying finish of his own at the Masters to nab second behind runaway winner Scottie Scheffler, and the Northern Irishman is expected to be a Major contender again next year.
“He is a hell of a player,” said European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald. “I am sure he is disappointed he has not won a major this year. But it would be a surprise if he did not have great opportunities again next year.”
Rory Mcilroy on becoming the DP World Tour No.1 for the fourth time 💬#DPWTC | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/jkBA7udhGcNovember 20, 2022
McIlroy will go into the 2023 Majors as a big favorite after climbing to world number one and finishing top of the money lists on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
The 33-year-old banked over $38m as he won the Race To Dubai in Europe for a fourth time to go along with his third FedEx Cup success in the United States, and he himself says he is now the “most complete” golfer he’s been in his career.
He won more money than Dustin Johnson did from LIV Golf, which will have gone down very well with McIlroy as one of the big critics of Greg Norman’s operation.
And his new position as almost the leader and spokesperson for the PGA Tour could also help his game, according to Paul McGinley, who credits McIlroy’s psychologist Bob Rotella for helping him turn the emotion of that role into a catalyst for improvement on the course.
“Rory’s been frontline in all the stuff off the course and Rotella has channeled that in a very positive way,” McGinley told The Times. (opens in new tab) “Michael Jordan found things he used as fuel and Rotella and McIlroy have used all that energy in a positive way too. All these things collided.”
The mental toughness McIlroy seems to have gained from the LIV Golf battles can only work alongside actual technical improvements though, especially on the greens where Brad Faxon seems to have sorted his putting out – starting with that finish at Augusta.
“The Masters was validation,” says McGinley. “Whether you’ve done something with your swing or psychologically, you need the results to validate what you are doing.
“He got that. It’s not a given that this will continue, and he will still have ups and downs, but he seems to have figured out a lot about himself.”
One thing McIlroy will have to deal with more than most is the attention that will be centered on him in the Majors – especially at the Masters where he goes in another search for that Green Jacket to complete the grand slam.
He should contend at Augusta again, but another positive for McIlroy could be in the venue for The Open in 2023, which returns to Hoylake when he captured the Claret Jug in 2014 before also going on to win the following USPGA Championship.
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