x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Misfiring Rory McIlroy needs to programme his golf schedule better

Impulsive decisions by the North Irishman may be reason behind his fall from the world No 1 ranking, writes Steve Elling.

Rory McIlroy skipped many high-profile events but played in the Houston Open as a last-minute entrant, and did badly. Scott Halleran / Getty Images
Rory McIlroy skipped many high-profile events but played in the Houston Open as a last-minute entrant, and did badly. Scott Halleran / Getty Images

He feinted to the left, did a little swivel move, then spun completely around on a heel.

It is doubtful Northern Ireland's Rory McIlrory has ever worn a pair of cowboy boots, but he is about to execute his own rendition of the Texas two-step. Whether it was well-choreographed, we will see.

After facing questions all spring about the logic behind his sparse playing schedule, McIlroy impulsively entered this week's Texas Open, joining the field shortly before the PGA Tour's commitment deadline as he logged another unimpressive performance (tied 45th) in Houston.

You would think this was his first rodeo. It was merely the latest in a series of decisions that have called into question his judgement over the past few weeks.

After announcing a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike in January, the freshly deposed world No 1 squandered a commanding, five-point lead in the world rankings, having been supplanted in a span of 12 weeks by Tiger Woods.

McIlroy walked off the course in frustration in Florida in early March and has logged two rounds in the 60s over the season's first three months, a span that includes a mere five starts. But adding the Texas Open, played on one of the least-popular venues among PGA Tour players, is confusing on several levels.

Claiming he did not need more tournament play – an issue raised myriad times by observers as his results suffered – he skipped March events in Tampa and Orlando, where both the fields and courses are reputed to be better than in Texas.

As for Orlando, McIlroy has never played the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a fact that has not escaped the host. McIlroy sent Palmer a letter recently and said he would not be playing, but asked if they could meet. "Of course, that made me feel great," Palmer said, sarcasm obvious.

But the most confusing move of all came when McIlroy announced he would be making a humanitarian trip to Haiti next week on behalf of Unicef; to his credit, he is an ambassador for the charitable organisation. Then he cancelled it five days later to play Texas.

The reaction: That is bad planning and worse public relations.

McIlroy said he made the decision to go to Texas after his caddie suggested more fine-tuning was needed before heading to Augusta National next week. This time, McIlroy listened. By way of contrast, McIlroy took three weeks off before the Masters last year.

McIlroy led the Masters after 54 holes in 2011 and was one stroke off the lead after two rounds last spring. The early favourite at Augusta after a transcendent 2012, McIlroy will drive down Magnolia Lane next week as perhaps the biggest wild card in the field.

Where does McIlroy head from here? As they might say in Texas, that's a great question, y'all.


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