Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
Following the Memorial at Muirfield Village this week, the Ulsterman has decided to forego a planned trip to the Titleist Performance Insititute in California with his coach and trainer and take them instead to Memphis for the FedEx St Jude Classic.
The reason for the change is simple. He’s behind schedule with his preparations and needs to play competitive golf to get back on track after missing back-to-back cuts for the first time since 2010, when he bowed out early at the Shell Houston Open and the Masters. The world No 2 has played just nine events so far this year and while that’s just one fewer than Luke Donald, who deposed him as world No 1 on Sunday, it’s three fewer than world No 3 Lee Westwood—a significant number.
More significantly, McIlroy played just 10 competitive rounds in 73 days between the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the start of the BMW PGA, taking two weeks off before shooting rounds of 74 and 79. Having confessed that he took his eye off the ball, the Northern Ireland man is now playing catch up. But despite reports that he has run into the arms of his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki again for more R&R, he’s been working harder than ever.
While he did travel by Eurostar to see Wozniacki prepare for Rolland Garros in Paris on Sunday, he has not neglected his practice regime. Following a two-hour gym session with trainer Steve McGregor at Wentworth on Friday evening, he was on the range at 7:30 am at Wentworth on Saturday morning and put in a five-hour practice session before catching the train to Paris.
The truth is that McIlroy is still searching for an ideal schedule despite four and a half years in the professional ranks. In the past, he felt he played too much and fearing burnout, he declared at the Wells Fargo Championship that he wanted to play no more than 23 events a year. His plan was to ease his way into the summer with his batteries fully charged by playing a limited schedule either side of the Masters. In hindsight, he now realises that he could have added an extra event or two—the Shell Houston Open or Bay Hill, for example.
It’s too late to worry about all that now as he faces a race against time to get his game back in shape for three huge weeks in a row. Whether he will be fresh when he arrives in San Francisco is another matter given the grueling heat he will face in Memphis.
At the age of 23, McIlroy is trying to be his own man, listen to advice and get the perfect balance between his personal and professional life. So far, he’s got it just slightly wrong and while the US Open might come too soon, his rite of spring will stand to him in the future.
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.