Can Valhalla Return Inspire Rory McIlroy To End Decade-Long Major Drought?

Can a return to the scene of his last victory at Valhalla a decade ago inspire Rory McIlroy to finally end his Major drought?

Rory McIlroy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

He's tried almost everything to add to his Major tally, but could maybe a return to the scenes of his last one 10 years ago help Rory McIlroy end his long drought?

His resounding victory at the Wells Fargo Championship means he's won his last two starts heading to Valhalla - just as he did a decade ago - and McIlroy hopes "the stars are aligning a little bit" for him to finally end his wait for a fifth Major.

When McIlroy claimed the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla he was on top of the golfing world - and few would have thought that he'd have to wait at least a decade for another.

He had, after all, just won back-to-back Majors in 2014 - following up the Open Championship at Hoylake with the PGA Championship at Valhalla and would head to The Masters in 2025 as favourite to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy's one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson as darkness fell in Kentucky showed that the Northern Irishman was almost unbeatable on his day.

"I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 Majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing," said the great Jack Nicklaus after McIlroy's win.

And even at the 2015 Masters there weren't too many warning signs as he shot 68-66 at the weekend to finish T4 at Augusta National.

McIlroy even followed up with a top 10 finish at the 2015 US Open, but it's been a case of so near yet so far ever since in his bewildering Major drought.

In fact, McIlroy's had 20 top 10 finishes in his 35 Majors since winning at Valhalla - 10 of those being top fives with two runners-up spots.

He finished no worse than eighth in seven of eight Majors across 2022 and 2023, but McIlroy's just not been able to find that winning formula to get him over the hump.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds the trophy next to Stuart Cage (L) and Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler after his eight-stroke victory during the 111th U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy won his first Major at the 2011 US Open

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So could Valhalla and the memories of his last victory conjure up something extra special to spur McIlroy on?

It's worth a shot surely, as he's tried everything else so maybe diving full-length into the nostalgia of conquering the Kentucky course can inspire him.

Not that it quite worked last year as he returned to Royal Liverpool where he lifted the Claret Jug in 2014, but was left trailing in Brian Harman's wake, although links golf is a bit different and not his strongest suit.

At T6 he was just a shot off the chasing pack, with Harman out in front on his own, so it wasn't a bad performance and maybe there is something in this familiarity with Major venues where you've tasted success.

So thoughts of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy will be at the forefront of McIlroy's preparations - it's one of the heaviest trophies in golf, but the pressure of winning a Major again is weighing even more heavily on his shoulders.

He's tried swing changes, caddie changes, equipment changes and even changes in his mental approach - this time maybe the advantage can simply be playing at a course where he knows he can get the job done.

It's been a decade, McIlroy can't really afford to let his Major drought drag on much longer as his chances of adding to his tally diminish with every passing event, but he looks calm and settled and insists he's a better player than in 2014.

He's got everything he needs, his form could not be better, he's won this before, at this venue, so he really has no excuses. Maybe the stars have aligned after all.

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McIlroy's Major record since 2014
Row 0 - Cell 0 MastersPGA ChampionshipUS OpenThe Open
2020T5T33T8No Event
2024T22Row 10 - Cell 2 Row 10 - Cell 3 Row 10 - Cell 4
Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.