Rory McIlroy, a two-time major champion, is battling through a major slump, looked defeated playing in the first round of the Open Championship on Thursday, posting an eight-over 79. Not exactly the start he was hoping for at Muirfield.
And no, McIlroy’s troubles have nothing to do with his swing mechanics or his Nike clubs. Instead, it’s more complicated: it’s all in between his ears.
“I don’t know what you can do,” said Rory when asked how frustrated he was. “You’ve just got to try and play your way out of it. But it’s nothing to do with technique. It’s all mental out there. And then I just need to concentrate, obviously. But sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious. I just need to try to think more. I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate. But, yeah, I can’t really fathom it at the minute, and it’s hard to stand up here and tell you guys what’s really wrong.”
From the front apron on no. 15, Rory putted the ball into the back bunker. Which, isn’t *that* hard to do with firm and breezy conditions if you’re not playing well and the bounces aren’t going your way. I haven’t quite done that in the last week when I’ve been conducting my “research” — best way to cover the Open is to experience links golf firsthand, you know — but it’s tough to judge the speed when it’s windy on hard and fast greens.
“Actually I didn’t hit that many bad shots,” he said. “I had a lot of good shots and made a couple of 2’s at the par-3s. It’s just, yeah, I mean, I feel like I made a lot of progress over the last couple of weeks, and then shooting a round like this, is obviously not what you want. And you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and think about what you need to do differently or what you need to do better to improve.”
McIlroy might be searching for a new sports psychologist, saying he had in the past and perhaps it was time to seek the help of a shrink once again.
“It’s just so brain dead,” said Rory. “Seriously, I feel like I’ve been walking around out there like that for the last couple of months. I’m trying to get out of it. I just don’t quite know why. I’ve worked with Bob [Rotella, the sports psychologist] before a little bit. And, yeah, it could be beneficial to see someone like that again, we’ll see.”
Say what you will about Rory’s slump and game, but for the most part, he’s still a stand-up guy. He faced the press and stood there patiently as he answered our pesky questions as thoughtfully as he could. Afterward, as I was walking around to the other side, Rory was heading to the locker room, and most players would probably look straight past you, but a defeated-looking McIlroy glanced up and managed a courteous “Hi, Steph” — albeit meekly.
McIlroy needs a low round on Friday afternoon to stick around for all four rounds, not to mention to get some confidence and momentum. Good news is he has nothing to lose.
“I want to try to be here for the weekend,” said Rory. “But the thing that I need to do tomorrow is just go out there and freewheel it and try and make birdies and try and play with that little bit of whatever it is I have usually. That’s what I’ve to try and go out and do tomorrow, even though it’s going to be tough to make birdies out there obviously.”
(Photo via Reuters)