McIlroy's Mission -- Majors Matter

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2021 PGA Championship
Posted on
May 18, 2021
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
McIlroy's Mission - Majors Matter
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)


KIAWAH ISLAND, SC. Rory McIlroy re-entered the picture as the favorite for this week's 105th PGA Championship at the same venue where he claimed the Wannamaker Trophy in 2012.

McIlroy's win at the Wells Fargo event was his 19th victory on the PGA Tour and meant a return to the winner's circle for the first time since the HSBC-Champions event in November 2019.

McIlroy ended 2020 as the 4th best player in the world but lackluster results meant a plunge out of the top ten to the 15th position. The win in Charlotte has the Ulsterman back inside the top ten. 




The most glaring element still needing to be expunged is McIlroy's goose eggs in major championships dating back to 2014. Winning four majors by the age of 25 was a significant accomplishment -- matched only by the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods -- and more was expected in the intervening years. Even Nicklaus himself said that double digit majors were a likely reality for Rory in the years to follow. 

The 32-year-old is now in a far different place than he was back in 2012. Married since 2017 and becoming a father to a young daughter has only stabilized McIlroy's foundation. He has also elevated himself as a leading spokesperson on behalf of his fellow players as chairman of the Players Advisory Council within the apparatus of the PGA Tour.

In recent weeks it has been McIlroy who has stated strongly his opposition to the Premier Golf League -- an enterprise backed by Saudi Arabian money that would feature 40-48 players playing 12-18 events around the world with lucrative purses. The league would include provisions for guaranteed money and include a team concept that would dole out ownership stakes for 10-12 players who would captain the four-man teams.

“I’m very much against it. I don’t see why anyone would be for it,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of the start of the Well Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. “You go back to what happened last week in Europe with the European Super League in football. People can see it for what it is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that’s what you’re playing golf for is to make as much money as possible."

The central element for McIlroy is his place in the history of the game and when his career concludes it will not be the size of his bank accounts - considerable as they are -- but the number of major championships and other wins of stature.


“I’m playing this game to try to cement my place in history and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. That’s why I’m playing this game. Golf has been very good to me obviously over the years by playing in Europe starting off, coming over to the PGA Tour and playing here. I honestly don’t think there’s a better structure in place in golf, and I don’t think there will be.”

McIlroy attained the number one ranked position for a total of 106 weeks and this week's PGA Championship could well prove to be the springboard back to the forefront and nip in the bud some of the comments that his truly best days may be behind him.

It's important to point out that Rory had been ranked number one for a period of 106 weeks but until the recent win it appeared the McIlroy storyline would be more about his potential to return to the top of the golf pyramid than the actual reality.

In professional golf, situations can change rapidly.

McIlroy brought on board a new swing coach two months ago with noted instructor Pete Cowen and a number of observers questioned how the new relationship would work. With McIlroy's recent win it's become clear things are proceeding well. Driving the ball has always been Rory's calling card and to make sure his prowess in this area continues, McIlroy has opted to work exclusively in fading the ball for overall consistency.

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The more consequential improvement has been on the putting side. McIlroy has always been a steaky putter and often there have been times when close in situations to the hole have meant missed scoring opportunities. At the Wells Fargo, McIlroy had 52 putts within 6 feet of the hole and did not miss one. Should Rory carry these dual strengths in driving and putting at The Ocean Course the net result could very well turn out to be his 3rd PGA Championship win.

McIlroy has built a fan base because of his candor and availability to media and fans respectively. His desire to be upfront and speak his mind goes beyond the limited repartee that far too many players provide.

In recent years the focus at the top of the pecking order has been about the playing skills of current world number one ranked player Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka. Both have question marks attached to them coming into this week's event -- DJ's being recent spotty play and Brooks' trying to recover successfully from knee surgery.

When McIlroy has been at his best the strength of his victories has been powerful. In '12 he won the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes In winning the '11 U.S. Open he mauled the field also by eight strokes. Only Tiger Woods displayed even greater margins in a few of his major triumphs.


Major championships are pivotal moments because they provide the ultimate clarity in terms of player development. McIlroy demonstrated his super-sized talents early on in his career. The seven-year drought in major championship play is a storyline Rory certainly wants to put in his rear-view mirror. 

McIlroy's mission has been stated best by Rory himself. Winning majors -- putting together a track record of ultimate greatness. He is embracing the moment. More than anything else -- Rory's story is one where a number of chapters have yet to be written. 

Having an encore performance at Kiawah's Ocean Course could very well be the springboard for the kind of dominance he displayed when just 25 years of age.


McIlroy's Mission - Majors Matter
(AP Photo/John Raoux)
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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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