The European Tour was in Ireland this week for the Irish Open. This tournament is always a favorite on the European Tour and always attracts some of the best golfers in the world, including Rory McIlroy. Rory, who is from Northern Ireland, entered Sunday up 3 strokes on both Russell Knox and Masters champion Danny Willet. This is a home game for McIlroy and he loves this tournament. His foundation helps put his tournament on and he will give all his prize money to local charities. As you could guess, the crowds came out in numbers to support McIlroy as he started his final round. He started in neutral and remained there for most of the round making two birdies and two bogeys through 15 holes. This allowed Knox to come from behind and take the lead. Knox led by one shot heading to the 16th tee but Rory played the final three holes in 3-under, including an eagle on the last hole, to secure the victory.
McIlroy has struggled recently, especially with being able to finish or win tournaments. He has played well the past few months, including high finishes at The Masters, Wells Fargo and The Players. In each of those tournaments, he has made costly errors, mostly due to lack of focus. At the very least, focus that has been below average from what we have seen in the past. Instead, we have watched him three putt in crucial situations, make a easy up and down challenging and hit balls out of bounds or into a hazard. Rory used to be able to run away and hide with golf tournaments. He would get into position and take complete control (see the 2011 US Open, the 2012 PGA Championship and the 2014 Open Championship). The past year however that hasn’t been the case. He has now won twice on the European Tour in 2016 but is still seeking his first PGA Tour title and major of the season.
Hopefully this win will be the kick in the pants he needs and has helped his focus and has helped remind him how to handle those situations. He said after his round today that this is the most pressure he has felt on the course. This being his home and own country’s open championship, I believe him. This is a positive sign that he was able to harness his focus, make good swings and do what needed to be done under immense pressure. He hit shots down the stretch that showed why he is the best player of this generation. There are not many people in the world that can do what he did those final three holes. He overpowered the golf course but was able to do so with magnificent precision. As a Rory fan, I hope he can sustain this focus and level of play headed into the last three majors of the year. If he can, they will certainly be interesting to watch.
Cover photo: TheGuardian.com