If there’s one good thing about the 2013 PGA Tour season for Rory McIlroy, it’s this: it’s almost over.
On Thursday, McIlroy opened play at the BMW Championship in 41st place in the FedEx Cup points standings. With just 30 spots in the Tour Championship up for grabs, he knew he had his work cut out for him, but stranger things have happened every week of the season. A strong showing at Conway Farms could earn him a trip to Atlanta, and give a bit of vindication to an otherwise awful year.
Unfortunately, after an opening-round 78, seven over par, McIlroy finds himself in a tie for 66th place and 15 shots behind leader Brandt Snedeker. His round was marred by four bogeys, a double bogey on the par-3 11th, and a triple bogey 7 on the par-4 first, which opened his back nine. While he wasn’t wildly inaccurate off the tee, he struggled to hit greens, reaching only 11 of 18 in regulation.
It’s hard to imagine that this is the same McIlroy who started the 2013 season as the hottest commodity in golf. While it hasn’t all been bad – McIlroy has five top-ten finishes on the year – he never seemed to be able to hold on to any of the successes he had.
We’ve heard all the excuses and projecting from onlookers. At the start of the year, it was the switch from Titleist to Nike that caused problems in the young star’s game. As time wore on, people started to wonder if McIlroy’s relationship with Caroline Wozniacki was preoccupying his mind. At the end of the year, though, all that matters is what happens on the course, and it just hasn’t been any good.
For the 24-year-old McIlroy, perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing if his season were to end after this week. He’d have to play some miraculous golf over the next three days to climb back into contention, and even then it probably wouldn’t be enough.
After this week, he can go home, collect himself and take some time away from the spotlight and pressure to get everything right. Perhaps he might play a few early-season events with the new year-round PGA Tour schedule. Whatever he does, he’ll almost certainly come back next year with a renewed fire, and a desire to show everybody that he’s still got the game that shot him to No. 1 in the world.
Whatever happens this week, his focus should be on getting comfortable just playing his game once again. If he does that, he’ll be back on top before long.