What went wrong for Rory McIlroy in 2013?

At the end of the 2012 golf season, we were ready to anoint Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy as a new golfing great. World number one, a double Major winner, this affable Irish youngster was threatening to take the game by the scruff of the neck, much as a young Tiger Woods had done when he burst onto the scene many years ago.



Twelve months on and it is a very different story,  In November 2012, McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estate shooting three rounds of 66 and a 67 on route to a winning score of -23. It would be his first and only win in the official 2013 season.


In the three other European tour events McIlroy played in 2013, he missed the cut in all of them (The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the BMW PGA Championship and the Irish Open).

On the PGA Tour McIlroy started with an uninspiring 33rd at the World Accenture Matchplay and then controversially withdrew from the Honda Classic citing toothache as the reason for him dropping out during the second round.


The only bright spot of the season was a 2nd place finish at the Valero Texas Open in April a week before the Masters. After that, his best place finish was 8th, which he achieved twice, once at The Players Championship in May and once in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August.


World number one golfer Rory-McIlroy


On the PGA Tour, McIlroy played in 16 events, making the cut in 14, with 5 top 10 finishes 0 wins, playing 990 holes with an average score of 71.1 for 18 holes. In the Majors, that average crept up to 72.5.  McIlroy finished 41st on the total money list and has fallen from 1st in the world in the golf rankings, to 6th.

In comparison, Tiger Woods also played in 16 events in 2013, making the cut in all 16, with 8 top 10 finishes and five wins. Woods is now back as the world number 1.


So what has gone wrong for Rory this year? There are several theories as to why the Irishman has endured a miserable time on the fairways.



1. Lack of Focus – Some people have suggested that having only played 16 events this year on the PGA Tour, plus four in Europe, McIlroy’s focus is now somewhere other than the golf course. They point out his relationship with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki as evidence of that. With sponsorship commitments and other people vying for his time, many people feel that Rory’s attention has been switched away from the game, to the detraction of his skills when playing it.

It also appears that in October Rory has called off his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki, another change after changing his management company and clubs. Apparently one of the reasons of the split was a “hurtful” image that the tennis pro posted on her Twitter feed, showing McIlroy fas asleep and mouth opened.


Rory-McIlroy sleeping mouth open



2. Change of Clubs – Many pundits, such as Sir Nick Faldo, have vocally stated their belief that McIlroy’s woes stem from a change of club sponsor to Nike. At least once publically (and perhaps many more times privately) McIlroy has worked with Nike Golf technicians to try and tweak their clubs to his satisfaction, but given his woes, especially with the driver, it still seems that Nike clubs and McIlroy are not yet fully compatible.


3. The Balloon has Burst – There are some who maintain that McIlroy was never quite as good as he had been billed and that after a stellar start to his career, he may find things tougher as his game settles down.


In truth, there is probably an element of truth to all three reasons above, but certainly the change of clubs seems to be the biggest issue McIlroy faced this year. Given McIlroy’s finely tuned game, changing clubs when he did was on reflection, probably a poor choice in terms of his golf season, but a wise one in terms of his bank account for the next 10 years.


And which other golfer would have turned down Nike’s millions if offered?

So yes, McIlroy’s focus has been switched a little from golf chiefly due to the pressures of being World Number 1, his change of club sponsor played havoc with his game at times and yes, perhaps press and media have been guilty of overstating just what a talent this young Irishman is.


But it is worth noting that McIlroy IS a special talent and, just as Henrik Stenson has done this year, I would not put it past him to bounce back in spectacular style sooner rather than later.


With a year’s worth of research and development with Nike to find the clubs to suit his game, valuable experience of a year without great success and perhaps, playing in a few more tournaments than he did last year to find his game, McIlroy will be in a stronger position this forthcoming year to reassert himself at the top of the game once again.


Roll on the 2014 golf season!


(All Images courtesy of Rory McIlroy’s Facebook Page and Twitter, Caroline Wozniacki Twitter)


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