In the year’s two Majors to date, Rory McIlroy has shown signs of returning to his best.
First, during the final round of The Masters at Augusta National in April, he produced a barnstorming performance to finish runner-up. Then, at last week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, he seemed poised to go one better when a virtually flawless first round left him at the top of the leaderboard going into the second day.
He couldn’t reach those heights in the rounds that followed, but the Northern Irishman still finished a creditable eighth at two-under for the tournament, leaving plenty of room for optimism that his eight-year-long wait to add to his four Majors may soon come to an end.
In an exclusive interview with Golf Monthly, McIlroy explained that what sets the game’s biggest tournaments apart is the mental strength needed to go all the way. He said: “They’re the four toughest tests in golf. Maybe not so much in terms of scoring-wise, but certainly in terms of mentality. Coming down the stretch and trying to win a Major championship versus any other event is a little different, and that’s really when you know what you’re made of and the practice that you’ve put in, has it paid off? Are you able to handle that under the most intensive pressure?”
While McIlroy couldn't answer those questions emphatically at Southern Hills, his disappointment at not winning a Major in 2022 so far seems unlikely to diminish his enthusiasm for the game. He said: “I love doing what I’m doing. I get up every morning and I have an opportunity to play golf for a living. I know if I play my game, I’ll have a handful of chances to win each year. It’s all about taking advantage of those opportunities.”
To do that, McIlroy is always looking for ways to improve his game, and one area he and his coach have been focusing on recently is his swing. He explained: “I’m trying to get to a more neutral position at the top. Something that Michael Bannon and I are working on. Sometimes my right arm gets a little steep and the club gets across the line, so I’m just trying to keep that a little more neutral. That’s a crucial point of focus at the minute.”
While the wait for his fifth Major continues, McIlroy retains a sense of perspective and says that it marks the realisation of a childhood dream whenever he plays in one. He said: “Chasing your dreams is key here. I always go back to: ‘OK, what would 10-year-old Rory think of what you’re doing right now?’ And he’d love it, he’d absolutely love it. I think that’s the attitude you have to go with. You have to just realise that this is what I’ve always wanted to do in life, so you can’t bitch about it too much. It’s a pretty good life that I’m living.”
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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