What Is Wrong With Rory McIlroy?

The four-time Major winner seemed out of sorts in his 10-over-par Players Championship early exit

What Is Wrong With Rory McIlroy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The four-time Major winner seemed out of sorts in his 10-over-par Players Championship early exit

What Is Wrong With Rory McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy is probably the most over-analysed player on the planet and we’ve all got an opinion on him.

Coming into Sawgrass he had just had back-to-back top 10s to go with the third in Abu Dhabi but he’s now outside the world’s top 10 and seems a long way off a fifth major after comfortably missing the cut at The Players.

So we asked our forum members that, if there was one thing you could change to help get him back to winning ways, what would it be?

Nothing, it’s just a matter of time 21%

Rory isn’t too far away and there is no doubt just a few tweaks needed to refine the changes or even step them back a little as he suggested. I would suggest he has more pressure on him every time he starts than anyone else because we all know when it clicks he can destroy courses. Just before the pandemic he was World No. 1 and cruising – he stuttered last year with and it looks like some swing changes - won’t take him much to get back. I don’t understand really why people think a new caddy will make a difference.  Liverpoolphil

Change nothing. Sure there's things he could be better at (like every pro out there) but there's no big drama that he must fix. If there is a problem it's that he's just not as good as some people want him to be. It simply can't be said that he alone can destroy courses or lap the field.... there's maybe 20 or 30 other guys  who 'on their day' are every bit as good as Rory is. This is not a problem, this is just the competition. Slab

His coach 9%

I’ve said change coach but not a permanent change. I would like him to visit with the likes of Pete Cowen or Butch Harman. Not to change his swing etc, but to think about and consult on areas of the game which could do with improvements. Cowen is a short-game guru, perhaps he could consult on his pitching. Both are also renowned for their assistance on the mental side of the game, eg when Cowen basically told to Koepka that if he wants to be the best he had to start believing he was the best. JamesR

His caddie 30%

When Rory is playing brilliantly he is a joy to watch and I believe anyone could carry his bag. When he has a wobble, he needs someone to snap him out of it, with good advice or a stern word. Remember JP’s “you’re Rory McIlroy” at the Open? (Censored version!). Every now and then after a poor round he says someone said something to him on the range and the next day he was flying. That should be happening on the course. I’m sure Harry Diamond is a great guy, I’d love to be playing golf with my friends, but if I were playing for majors I’d want the best professional I could find. That is not Harry. Who will remember his top 10s? Even Jack and Tiger are compared primarily by one number; 18 plays 15. I believe Rory will win more majors, he’s too good not to, but it’s his mindset that concerns me and a great caddy goes a long way to fixing that. Curls

Podcast: "McIlroy chasing distance is absolute lunacy"

Something else 40%

His psychology. I’ve always thought that Rory playing at 90% is better than nearly all other players. He puts too much pressure on himself and, no matter what he says about his mindset when talking off the course, he appears to make too many bad decisions on it. Go back to his earlier career when he barely thought about what he was doing. That happy stride down the fairway he had, thinking less, just hitting the shots. He doesn’t need to try as hard as others. Just. Think. Less. I think his head has been ruined by sports psychology mumbo jumbo. Go back to the young Rory who couldn’t care less. Jimaroid

It's largely upstairs so a sports psychologist is probably first up. The skill set is all there in spades, (wedge play apart which was excluded from the options!). Perhaps a change in coach would resolve this along with technical issues put I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about technical matters to identify weaknesses there. Lord Tyrion

He seems to be chucking in one bad round every tournament. I'd rather he shot 69, 70, 70, 68 than 65, 66, 83, 71. drive4show

By his own admission he's been chasing distance to the detriment of his overall game. He doesn't need to. Wind it in a little, find the short stuff, find the greens, find the hole. Imurg

He needs to clear his head. He admits he and others have been seduced by Bryson's distance and he has unnaturally changed his swing that has caused some swing faults. I'd like him to do what's natural, he's hardly a short hitter now is he, and he's got the ability no doubt. Take a step back, get a swing that he doesn't need to think twice about, and improve his overall game rather than chasing distance. Sats

I think the standard of golf at the top has never been higher, and the number of players who can play at this level has never been larger. One of any of the top 10-15 players can turn it on and romp away with the tournament. There isn't room for mistakes, or weaknesses, and I do think Rory has a few. There was an interview with Spieth a while ago, and he said that he needed to re-engage with his younger self, to stop getting bogged down with detail and past history. Rory would do well I think to listen to this, as it is someone who has been there, and done it at a very high level too. murphthemog

I’ve always thought it’s a mental thing with Rory. One mistake or missed putt seems to lead to his game unraveling very quickly, and four or five bad holes in quick succession these days is all it takes before a player is out of a tournament. I also agree the quest for distance may be a factor, and it’s unnecessary. Billysboots

I have never understood why top players who have won multiple majors want to change their swing. Isn’t a swing that can win the Open good enough? This is the problem for me, when things go wrong he has too many things going around in his head and he then makes mistakes. Just go back to the swing he won with and that will be good enough in most tournaments. clubchamp98

There's only one thing missing with the Masters and 95% of golfers, past and present, would happily swap careers with him. But..... he is over analysed, no doubt, and part of him enjoys that I'm sure, as it makes him relevant and there is a professional peer appreciation of the talents he's got (for example, there's a reason the Fitzpatricks, the Lowrys, the Wallaces, the Kisners, etc., aren't over analysed).  I don't think he works hard enough. He says he works on things, and he does, but he doesn't practice and work on things like, say BDC, or even the many other journeyman golfers. It is a mentality thing, particularly with regard to the standard we seem to want to hold him to - Woods’ priority as a child was golf. As an amateur, it was golf. As a pro, it was golf. When he got married it was golf. Latter day Woods priorities his kids over golf, except when he steps across the ropes - then it's only golf. McIlroy, I believe, doesn't have that single-mindedness. I can't criticise him for wanting everything - a contented, happy personal life and a stellar career - I imagine that's what most of instil in our kids, that balance, but it comes at the expense of current golfing greatness.  rksquire

Stop getting caught up in the hype that you’re miles better than everybody when you’re on your game, you’re not and you haven’t been for years. Get back to playing sensible golf and stop trying to overpower every course. pokerjoke

Despite hearing from all and sundry about how great a driver he is, that is no longer the case. The great and the good constantly eulogise about his driving prowess but, just using this week as an example, it seemed to me that right from the off he was spending more time in the trees than on the fairway? His driving seemed exceptionally poor, long but wayward, and if you are driving poorly it will always put pressure on the rest of your game. To read that he has tried to increase his swing speed and that he recognises that it has had consequences is a start, he has identified the issue. Can he repair the damage, with his level of talent, absolutely. But as to how long it will take, that is a different matter. Golfnut1957

I think it is 100% the mental side of things that he needs to work on. He’s got the game, especially when he slows himself down a little - but you can see by his reaction to a bad shot that he’s just not mentally in the zone. Boomy

I think he's a fun-loving type of player, so that when he's relaxed he's brilliant, when he tenses up and worries he's not so great. I'd get him smashed in the bar after a tough day and take him mind away from all things golf to reset his mind ready for the next day. He, I think, puts too much pressure on himself. Crazyface

I think his hey-day has passed. He very well may win another major or two, but not in the same year and he won’t dominate again. Faldo and Seve won the clear bulk of their majors in a cluster, and I bet the same will be true of Brooks and Rory when all is said and done. Also, the level of play on tour has got a lot better in the last 10 years, and when Rory won a lot, he was vying with Donald and Westwood for No. 1. His main competitors, both still yet to win majors, so there is a plausible argument that the game was a bit weaker when he won a lot. evemccc

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Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.