Rory McIlroy Still Searching For Key To Get Game Back On Track

Winslow Townson – USA TODAY Sports

As the new 2013-14 PGA Tour season begins, one question that was never really answered last year still looms large.

What’s wrong with Rory McIlroy‘s game, and will it ever come back?

For the last year, it seems like every little bit of McIlroy’s life has been scrutinized, whether on or off the course. What started as a rough beginning to the 2013 PGA Tour season for the player who was ranked No. 1 in the world quickly spiraled out of control.

McIlroy went winless in 16 PGA Tour starts in 2013, with his best finish a tie for second at the Valero Texas Open, but even when it looked like his game might be back in order, something happened to set it back. One week it was his business squabbles with his management company, and another (and another, and another) it was whether his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki was distracting him.

As the new season begins, though, are things finally starting to come back together for the Ulsterman?

In his first action since tying for 59th place at the BMW Championship, McIlroy tied for second this weekend in the Kolon Korean Open on the OneAsia Tour. It wasn’t a win, and it certainly wasn’t the type of competition he’ll face week in and week out on the PGA or European Tours, but it certainly can’t hurt a player who appeared at times last year to have lost some of his “swagger” that he carried on his way to the top of the game.

The rest of October could be a telling time for the state of McIlroy’s game. He’s going to play in this week’s BMW Masters on the European Tour, and then the WGC-HSBC Champions, which will kick off his 2013-14 PGA Tour campaign. He’ll also play another one-day exhibition match with Tiger Woods in between those tournaments.

Woods, one of McIlroy’s Nike compatriots and the very man McIlroy was supposed to replace as the face of the sport, thinks that the on-course struggles, at least, may be coming to an end before long. ”I think … give him a little bit more time. I think he’s starting to put the pieces together, starting to play a little bit more,” Woods said in a recent USA TODAY interview. “He showed some really good signs towards the end of the season that the things he’s working on are starting to come together.”

Considering that Woods dealt with a lot of the same issues in recent years that McIlroy now faces, that has to count for something.

If McIlroy can play well in these tournaments, it would take a lot of the focus off all of the personal issues the young superstar has had to deal with. If not, it’ll only add more fuel to a fire that doesn’t need any. Personally, I expect we’ll see the turnaround before long. If he keeps his mind right, his talent is simply too much to be denied.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for RantSports.com. “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

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