Paul McGinley Says 'Element Of Doubt' Is Hindering Rory McIlroy Major Dream

The former European Ryder Cup captain thinks Rory McIlroy has "scar tissue" after a decade without a fifth Major victory

Paul McGinley during the pro-am of the Horizon Irish Open
Paul McGinley says Rory McIlroy has "scar tissue" after so long without a Major title
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Paul McGinley has backed Rory McIlroy to win more Major titles, but admits he has allowed an “element of doubt” to creep in following a decade without a title in one of the showpiece events.

The newly appointed strategic adviser to the European Ryder Cup team spoke to the Irish Independent about what’s holding the four-time Major winner back when it comes to the big four tournaments and began by explaining such a long gap without a title has taken a toll.

He said: “Look, I don’t want to give the impression that Rory is mentally weak, he’s far from it. You look at his career in the last 10 years and what he’s won since he last won a Major championship, and it’s phenomenal, it’s unmatched. Nobody comes close.

“He is by far, in my opinion, the best player in the modern era and by no means is he mentally weak. But there is an element of doubt that’s crept in, that’s been validated by 10 years of not succeeding in Major championships. He knows that. We all know it.”

McGinley likened McIlroy’s situation to the one that had been experienced by the most recent winner of a men’s Major, Xander Schauffele, who won his first title at the 28th time of asking at last month’s PGA Championship. 

He explained: “We saw it with Xander Schauffele. We saw the weight of expectation on his shoulders, we saw the pressure.

“The element of doubt has risen every year and it’s been validated by not getting over the line, and it’s only a natural human emotion. And that’s what Xander was saying. He said, ‘Nobody was harder on me than myself’. He said, ‘I had a lot of dark moments’."

McGinley also believes McIlroy’s acute understanding of the significance of Major titles is holding him back. He said: “When you have a brain and when you think and you have emotions, that’s when it’s toughest.” 

Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley before the 2018 Open

Paul McGinley believes knowing the importance of Major titles is holding Rory McIlroy back

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“If you have a John Daly approach, let’s just say, where you couldn’t care less, well it’s a lot easier to get over the line from that state of mind than it is if you’re somebody who deeply understands the importance of winning Major championships like Rory does. So he’s in a difficult place but it’s not a place that he can’t get out of.”

McIlroy came close, but not close enough, in three of last year’s four Majors, but none more so than his runner-up behind Wyndham Clark at the US Open, and McGinley revealed McIlroy knew he tightened up as he edged closer to the finish line.

“There’s no doubt he got tight last year. He admitted it himself, he got tight. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. The number of times I didn’t get over the line and the next time I got in, I didn’t feel less pressure, I felt more pressure. And then I didn’t win again, I felt more pressure, and it’s that element that seizes you.

Rory McIlroy at the 2023 US Open

McIlroy finished runner-up to Wyndham Clark at the 2023 US Open

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“You know, golf is a game of doubt. You have to live and deal with doubt, and there’s no doubt Rory McIlroy has got that scar tissue in Major championships; he doesn’t have it when he gets to Wells Fargo and the boys are around him; it’s different. That doubt doesn’t scream the way it screams in Majors."

Despite McIlroy’s mental struggles in Majors over the last decade, McGinley is convinced that if he finds a way to win one, more will soon follow. He added: “I think if he wins one... it’s like a goalscorer who hasn’t scored for a number of matches, and then it goes in off his a*** or off his leg or when he’s not looking, and all of a sudden then the floodgates open again.”

McIlroy’s next attempt to win a fifth Major is just days away, with the US Open getting underway at Pinehurst No.2 on 13 June.

Mike Hall
News Writer

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.