by Ronan MacNamara
Rory McIlroy. By Golffile
It was like a scene from the Incredible Hulk or something, as photographs of a chiselled Rory McIlroy sporting half a golf shirt and a cheeky bit of nipple - if you looked closely- did the rounds on social media.
Often criticised for deflecting his various misfortunes on the golf course away from him citing he won’t let golf define him, we have seen a much more impulsive and passionate McIlroy in recent months.
At least it shows he cares right?
It was far from a vintage McIlroy performance in Dubai last week, he was lacklustre from tee to green in all four rounds but some majestic chipping and pitching and an obedient flat stick kept him in contention as he remained true to his word of not having to do anything special to win the DP World Tour Championship.
Over the last few years, the four-time major winner has been accused of sloppy starts to tournaments and free wheeling himself into a backdoor top-10 particularly at Major championships.
His motivation came into question and doubts grew over whether he had the mentality to focus from the word go.
A calamitous 18-months for the Holywood native saw him fall from world number one to 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings and the river inside his head burst its banks as the Ryder Cup became almost as memorable for a tearful McIlroy on that Sunday in Whistling Straits as a period of letting the game pass him by reached the tipping point.
Those tears have proven the catalyst for a seemingly more motivated Rory who has since parted ways with Pete Cowen and is looking to turn the clock back and go back to being himself on the golf course.
The win at the CJ Cup was a huge step in the right direction but his poor finish on Sunday was a reality check. A bit like Arsenal’s 4-0 drubbing at Anfield on Saturday it was the realisation that both have improved but have a long way to go before the big boys stand up and take notice.
Rory McIlroy should be winning the DP World Tour Championship if he is serious about winning majors again. In fact, even if he won it I would have been looking for another big win in one of the stalwart PGA Tour events or a WGC because that European Tour finale was somewhat of a farce, after a series of high-profile withdrawals the event became the inevitable shootout between Rory and Collin Morikawa.
Pressure was on McIlroy who had a final round stroke average of 70.24 on the PGA Tour last season ranking him 76th on Tour, so there was a lot riding on Sunday given that he was in the lead with 18 holes to play.
Rory was sloppy all day and I know he got a bad break on the 15th, but you learn a lot about someone in the face of adversity. Not getting up and down for par and following it up with a second consecutive dropped shot on 16 told the tale that Rory still has a way to go before he gets back to his best.
Ripping his shirt in frustration shows that he knows that which I see as a positive. For so long he brushed off his shortcomings, but he seems to have changed and I think the Ryder Cup was a wake-up call that he could become yesterday’s man.
I’m not advocating that we see golfers misbehave and curse and throw clubs left right and centre but sometimes we need to see Rory throw his club in the lake at Doral or break his club in a tournament or criticise himself out loud after a shot, or in this case rip his shirt apart in sheer rage. It shows he cares and it shows that he gave everything on that particular day.
To let a tournament slip away like that is harrowing and alarming but the fact he reacted the way he did shows that he realises the implications and that he will learn from it rather than brush it to one side and pretend golf isn’t his number one priority.
Sometimes you need fire. Perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would still be in the United job if he showed a bit of fire instead of being this cheerful smiling inept character who shook the hand of almost every player after a humiliating defeat. He lacked fury and passion, McIlroy has it and it’s good to see it at times.
We are going to see a more volatile and passionate Rory McIlroy in 2022 and we need it.