June 1, 2023

ROCHESTER, NY – How Long Should a Hangover Last?

Rory McIlroy appears to be in the middle of a protracted Grand Slam, still belittled and disappointed with his missed participation in the Masters last month – a ninth chance to complete the Grand Slam career after being passed without a green jacket draped over his shoulders had slipped.

This is just an intuitive observation from his pre-tournament meeting with reporters Tuesday ahead of this week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, but something seems to be missing for McIlroy.

He sounded like a player who needs a spark.

McIlroy was not his usual engaging, thoughtful interlocutor. In what was a rarity, his meeting with the media felt like an obligation to him, with shorter, truncated answers than he is used to giving.

For example, since the beginning of the LIV Golf movement, McIlroy has taken center stage as a de facto spokesperson for the PGA Tour, publicly taking on the Saudi-backed rival tour. On Tuesday, he didn’t want to be part of LIV questions and turned them all down.

McIlroy always has an uncanny way about him in his press conferences, captivating you with his well-thought-out observations, well-informed opinions and his transparency. Those things were partially missing on Tuesday.

Rory McIIroy shoots during a practice round on Tuesday.
Getty Images

Whether that has anything to do with him being able to end his nine-year, 31-major drought without a win dating back to his 2014 PGA Championship triumph is anyone’s guess.

Last month at Augusta National, McIlroy spoke like a player who thought he was about to break through and finally win a green jacket.

“I feel as relaxed as I’ve ever come in here, just in the sense that I feel like my game is pretty good,” he said before the Masters.

Rory McIlroy during a PGA Championship practice round on Tuesday.

McIlroy then shot a 5-over 77 in the second round, leaving Augusta early, stabbed and stunned by the unexpected outcome of the missed cut.

The following week, he skipped the PGA Tour’s “elevated” tournament in Hilton Head, for which he was voluntarily fined $3 million, citing personal reasons.

Two weeks ago, he finished 47th in the pedestrian at the Wells Fargo in Quail Hollow, a spot where he had great success and won his first career PGA Tour title. And after his last round, he evaded reporters and slipped out of the clubhouse through a back exit.

All this leads us into this week, where McIlroy may feel a different kind of pressure than he felt at Augusta, because his wife, Erica Stoll, is from the area and he’s spent enough time playing Oak Hill that it can be characterized like a home. kind of game for him.

“It wasn’t really Augusta’s performance that’s hard to top,” McIlroy said of his latest run of form on Tuesday. “It’s just more the mental aspect and the deflation of it and kind of trying to get your mind in the right place to move forward again, I think.”

Trevor Immelman, the lead golf analyst for CBS and a former Masters winner, believes the Masters slump still haunts McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy during a practice round for the PGA Championship on Tuesday
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“It doesn’t make any sense to us that he hasn’t won that tournament yet because you feel like it’s a perfect match,” Immelman told The Post, referring to McIlroy and the Masters. “It’s almost too obvious. Rory knows that and we know that, and every time it hasn’t happened, it’s a huge turn off for him, and that’s completely understandable.

“Do any of us actually know how he feels? No, because we have not been in that position. But I have a pretty good idea of ​​how big of a disappointment it must be at the end of the Masters when he walks away and hasn’t won. Whether he finishes second in 2022 or misses the cut in 2023, it’s the same feeling of, ‘Oh man, I haven’t completed the career Grand Slam.’

“The analogy that I’m thinking of right now is if you see these heavyweight fights and one of the boxers gets a punch and the other guy is kind of stumped, stumbling around for a few seconds, just trying to stall time to where he can get back into the This is how the last month has been for me for Rory.”