Coming off a birdie to jump into a four-way tie for the lead at 8-under, Rory McIlroy had an extra bounce to his step walking up to the 18th tee. Although he wasn’t feeling completely comfortable with his 3-wood (case of the lefts all day), he knew it was the play. He didn’t pull it off the way he planned, though. Instead, McIlroy dunked it in the water that runs along the left-side of the fairway.
The finishing hole at TPC Southwind is an easy hole to screw up, though — just ask Robert Garrigus.
McIlroy went on to card a double-bogey six and drop back to a tie for seventh. Troubling? Yeah, if you’re the average PGA Tour player just trying to lock up your card for next year or if you’re not the No. 2 player in the world and defending your U.S. Open title at The Olympic Club this week. I shrugged when I heard the result. So he blew the shot to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic — a last-minute addition to his schedule because he needed extra competitive rounds to work on his swing tweaks. Big whoop. Besides, at least he made the cut, right? After all, he had missed three-in-a-row, which was why he was playing Memphis.
As I said in PGA Tour Confidential
(replying to the email thread in between shots at TPC Harding Park on Sunday afternoon), This week was about working on his swing tweaks and feeling comfortable with them in competition — almost like a few extra practice rounds to get ready for the U.S. Open. Not the finish he was hoping for, but I think he’s way more concerned with defending his title at Olympic.
“I wanted to come here this week just to get some competitive rounds,” Rory told reporters after posting a final-round 69. “I said in the early part of the week, if I got into contention, that was great. I did that. I had a real good chance to win the golf tournament. I didn’t do that. I’m happy I came here, and I feel like I’m well prepared going into the U.S. Open.”
Exactly. Pulling it into the water on the 72nd hole is way better than doing the same on the 36th hole and missing the cut!
Now does this mean McIlroy is my hands-down favorite going into the U.S. Open this year (like last year where he made me look smart)? Well, no. Partly because U.S. Opens at Olympic produce pseudo-random winners that disappoint the popular, more well-known name.
Would I count him out? No way. I think he’ll be in the mix Sunday. Just depends how confident and comfortable he is with his new swing, particularly under pressure at a major.