It seems that with every major championship that comes around, more and more golf fans believe that it will finally be the time that Rory McIlroy gets his hands on an elusive fifth major title. Expectations rise as McIlroy takes to the tee, but more often than not, by the end of play on Sunday, his multitude of fans are left disappointed as another opportunity passes him by.
The approaching Masters is yet another chance for McIlroy to end his drought and win a first major since he triumphed at the PGA Championship in 2014. Not only that, but the Augusta major also brings forth the opportunity for McIlroy to complete a career Grand Slam of winning all four of golf’s premier tournaments. Only five men have achieved that feat in the history of the sport, so McIlroy would join elite company in the form of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.
But sadly, there are few indications that McIlroy really has what it takes to win the Masters, and although he is one of the favourites according to the 2021 US Masters odds, his recent form in major championships suggests that it is unlikely. Indeed, McIlroy recently fell out of the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in over three years, after a poor showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It’s a slide that the Northern Irishman admits has been painful.
“There were some good parts this week again,” McIlroy said, “some stuff that I’m sort of, I don’t know what the word is or how to describe it, but just a little dejected. I’m maybe looking to go in a different direction. I don’t know. I need something, I need a spark, I need something and I just don’t seem to have it. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not.”
It’s clear that McIlroy is lacking a bit of confidence, but he’ll be hoping to find some kind of inspiration before the Masters rolls around next month. His best performance at Augusta was a fourth-place finish in 2015, but apart from that it’s been slim pickings in terms of challenging for the Green Jacket.
The reality is that for every major that goes by without the Northern Irishman getting his hands on the trophy, the harder it becomes for McIlroy to shake off the pressure that builds. In many of the sport’s biggest events, a poor start often leaves McIlroy playing catch-up after one or two rounds, or even missing the cut completely.
It’s hard to know whether the 31-year-old will ever get his hands on another major, but it’s clear that he needs to find a way to separate himself from the media attention and scrutiny that follows him from tournament to tournament. He has proven time and time again that he still has the quality to win competitions, and it’s only in the majors that the inflated prestige of the events seems to cause him to stutter.
McIlroy is searching for answers at the moment, but perhaps the best way for him to approach this year’s Masters is to simply play with the shackles off and try and treat it as any old PGA event. It’s easier said than done, of course, but for every year that passes where McIlroy doesn’t get his hands on that fifth major title, it feels as if the dream of doing so becomes a little less attainable.
Image Credits: Cem0030