Opinion: Has Rory McIlroy Lost His Winning Touch?

The four-time Major winner once again failed to win from the final group

Has Rory McIlroy Lost His Winning Touch

The four-time Major winner once again failed to win from the final group

Opinion:Has Rory McIlroy Lost His Winning Touch?

For the ninth time in a row, Rory McIlroy played in a final group and didn't come away with the victory.

The four-time Major winner was out last with Matt Fitzpatrick at Bay Hill as he attempted to successfully defend his Arnold Palmer Invitational title.

It became clear mid-way through the back nine that McIlroy wasn't going to win, as he simply was too far behind the 12 under total set by Francesco Molinari after his stunning 64, which was the same score McIlroy shot last year to win.

In all-too-familiar scenes, this was another example of the 23-time pro winner, who will go down as one of the greats of his generation, failing to come up with the goods when needed.

We've seen this at some huge tournaments in the past year like the Masters, BMW PGA Championship, Tour Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and more, and this was another of those days.

Rory seemed fairly happy with his play for the final round but ultimately downbeat on a day where he shot level par with two birdies and two bogeys to end in a tie for 6th.

McIlroy is playing some of the best golf in the world right now but has almost gone a full year without a victory. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

"Tough day. It was tough to get it close to the hole. I felt like I really didn't play that badly, I missed a couple of shots but I felt like I was hitting good shots to 30 feet all day," he said.

"It's hard to shoot a score. My mindset going out was 'play that way, take care of the par 5s'.

"I thought, 'go out there and do that, shoot 68 and I would have been close', obviously that was the winning total.

"I just didn't play the par 5s well enough."

It seems it's the same old story for Rory, who has consistently played some of the best golf in the world for the past decade, including the 4+ years in which he hasn't won a Major since the 2014 USPGA.

Related: McIlroy "positive" he'll complete career Grand Slam

His game looks great but for whatever reason he simply isn't quite putting the results together, and a win-less Players Championship this week will extend his stretch to a year without victory.

Rory McIlroy will defend his USPGA title at Whistling Straits

His last Major title came at the 2014 USPGA Championship four and a half years ago

Not bad by any means, but probably not what a player of his calibre would hope for.

So, is Rory squandering tournaments? Or are players just simply beating him with great play?

You could argue that Molinari was untouchable, as was DJ in Mexico, Schauffele in Hawaii, but still... McIlroy has the game to sparkle on the big stage and once was untouchable just like people say Molinari was yesterday. Think back to his US Open and first USPGA victories where he won at a canter, his 62 at Quail Hollow to win the Wells Fargo in 2010.

For whatever reason, come Sunday, it appears that McIlroy is finding it tougher to get over the line than he once did.

Let's look at his last seven final group performances:

2018 Dubai Desert Classic

Began final round one behind Haotong Li, Shot 69 (-3), finished 2nd, lost by one to Haotong Li

  • Verdict - Played well, beaten by the better man on the day.

2018 Masters

Began final round three behind Patrick Reed, Shot 74 (+2), finished T5th, finished six behind Reed

  • Verdict - Didn't play well enough. A huge opportunity to win the Career Grand Slam passed.

2018 BMW PGA Championship

Began final round level with Francesco Molinari, Shot 70 (-2), finished 2nd, finished two back of Molinari

  • Verdict - Birdie-birdie finish made the result look better but was ultimately out-classed by Molinari.

2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Began final round three behind Justin Thomas, Shot 73 (+3), finished T6th, ended day seven behind Thomas

  • Verdict - Outclassed by Justin Thomas, a poor final round.

2018 BMW Championship

Began final round one behind Justin Rose, Shot 68 (-2), finished 5th, two back of Rose and Keegan Bradley

  • Verdict: Always too far behind Rose and Bradley who were two ahead with nine to play.

2018 Tour Championship

Began final round three behind Tiger Woods, Shot 74 (+4), finished T7th, finished six behind Woods

  • Verdict: Fell away in a final group vs Tiger Woods just like so many players in the past. Struggled with driver around tough East Lake.

2019 Tournament of Champions

Began final round three behind Gary Woodland, Shot 72 (-1), finished T4th, finished eight behind Xander Schauffele

  • Verdict: Schauffele was untouchable on Sunday.

WGC-Mexico Championship

Began final round four behind Dustin Johnson, Shot 67 (-4), finished 2nd, five behind DJ

  • Verdict: Slow front nine let DJ get comfortable before both played superbly on back nine. Too little too late.

2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Began final round one behind Matt Fitzpatrick, Shot 72 (E), finished T6th, finished four behind Francesco Molinari

  • Verdict: All of the previous eight summarised in one. Played fine to shoot level par on a tough setup but nowhere near good enough to match Molinari.

Interestingly, he hasn't held the lead after 54 holes in any of those rounds (barring Wentworth where he was tied) so the pressure you would tend to feel from leading isn't there.

Instead, there should be a burning desire to come from behind and a freedom to attack, which perhaps isn't there because he still has pressure on him and is expected to win despite not actually holding the lead.

What does McIlroy need to do better to begin winning again?

For me, there are a few of things that may work...

1) Patience - He has begun 2019 with finishes of T4-T5-T4-2-T6 which is a brilliant stretch of golf and has cemented his position inside the world's top 10 at no.6 currently. He is clearly playing great and just needs one or two things to go his way... Have some patience and he WILL win, surely?


2) The caddie situation - Every time I watch Rory McIlroy he seems to make basic errors, particularly in the course management department. A caddie with authority who could almost take charge of the duo and tell McIlroy what shots to hit would, you think, increase his chances of victories. Yes, he is a feel player and clearly enjoys having his best mate on the bag and more responsibility over his own yardages, decisions etc... BUT, there are some great experienced caddies out there like Gareth Lord, Jim 'Bones' Mackay and Sergio Garcia's long-time former caddie Glen Murray (and probably lots more) that he could work with which could possibly yield results.


3) Play more - Perhaps a silly one, Rory could play in some smaller tournaments to get his confidence up. He is primarily playing on the PGA Tour this year against the strongest fields for the most ranking points and money which is understandable, but a limited schedule means he barely ever plays in weaker-field events. He is playing in the European Tour's European Masters this year and perhaps some other events without half of the world's top 10 in will allow him to taste victory again and boost the confidence.

Of course, this article could well look very old and silly next week if Rory lifts the Players Championship trophy.

I for one hope that he does win. He is arguably the most in-form golfer on the planet right now and the Players Championship would be a great title for him to add to his career tally.

Let us know your thoughts on Rory McIlroy's current predicament - is he going to win soon or has he missed out on some great trophy chances?

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Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5