The weight of the world can be clearly seen on the shoulders of Rory McIlroy lately. Amid speculation of changes to his management structure and a potential legal challenge to his Nike deal by Oakley, McIlroy, and particularly his golf, is clearly suffering.
Playing this week in his home open, The Irish Open at Carton House, a bout of hay fever and a poor opening round will do little to ease the worries of the world no. 2.
Starting on the 10th hole, McIlroy stuttered early with bogeys at holes 11 and 12, and although he got one back at the next, he struggled to ignite his challenge as the rain came. His drive on the 18th was 40 yards wide of his target, and when he followed it with a hack-out from the rough and a duffed pitch, a bogey-6 wasn’t a bad result in the end.
After the turn, following seven straight pars, another bogey followed at the par-5 eighth hole. He may take some solace in a closing birdie, but his opening round of 2-over par 74 leaves him (at the time of writing) in a tie for 53rd, seven shots adrift of Shane Lowry‘s lead.
Seeing him up close this morning, the Northern Irishman is a shadow of his bouncing former self. Whether the true source of his troubles is golf-based or otherwise, he’s certainly not in a good place. His shoulders are slumped, there’s no glint in his eye, and certainly no spring in his step.
The last time I got up close and personal to McIlroy was at the J.P McManus Pro-Am three years ago, and the difference is his demeanour is astonishing. He now cuts a dejected figure compared with the aura of invincibility and confidence that had surrounded him.