Not too long ago, Rory McIlroy was on top of the golf world, literally.
It was just over a year ago, following the 2012 Honda Classic, that McIlroy became the second-youngest player in history to reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, a position he would trade on and off with Luke Donald for several weeks.
Following his victory at the PGA Championship, McIlroy finished 2012 on an incredible run, winning the money titles on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, taking home the Player Of The Year awards on both sides of the pond and parlaying his success into a huge new sponsorship deal with Nike.
In most observers’ eyes, this was the year McIlroy was to take over Tiger Woods‘s position as the face of the sport internationally.
However, as we now know, sometimes the pressure and expectations of being “the chosen one” can be a bit premature. 2013 has seen Woods return to a dominant form we haven’t seen in years. McIlroy’s play thus far in 2013 has been somewhat inconsistent at best, and while he still sits in second place in the world behind Woods, McIlroy needs to find a way to regain the killer instinct that led him to dominate the field in his U.S. Open victory two years ago.
After missing the cut this past weekend at the BMW PGA Championship in England, McIlroy is set to return to the United States to play in this week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. Memorial traditionally brings one of the stronger fields as a final tune-up before the US Open, and nine of the world’s top-10 will be teeing it up in Ohio on Thursday.
For McIlroy, the Memorial represents an opportunity to jump-start his season with three major championships still on the schedule. However, he’s seen both highs and lows at Muirfield, having recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes before missing the cut at last year’s event.
McIlroy’s biggest enemy this year has been inconsistency. Statistically, he ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation and second in the all-around category, so his ball-striking is generally solid. However, he ranks near the bottom on the Tour in third-round scoring average, which is where he has fallen out of contention nearly every week. He has yet to break 70 on his Saturday rounds, including his difficult 79 at the Masters.
If McIlroy is going to regain his spot at the top of golf, it can’t be about equipment changes or pressure anymore. The best in the world rise to the occasion, and there’ll be no better time to start than this week at The Memorial.