Rory McIlroy was a club-mangling, angry wreck by he time he trudged away from the US Open.
But Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley believe the mop-haired world No 2 may have to accept his infuriating inconsistency as part of his golfing DNA and embrace his “erratic genius” as he seeks a confidence-boosting return to form in the Irish Open at Carton House this week.
The 24-year old Holywood star has had a nightmare start to the season since he signed his estimated $200m deal with Nike in January.
Quite apart from losing to pal Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, he stormed off the course after completing just 26 holes in the Honda Classic, lost his world No 1 ranking to Tiger Woods and then lost his temper, mangling a nine-iron to a fit of pique at Merion in his last outing less than a fortnight ago.
It’s “What’s Wrong With Rory Time” again but as far as Harrington and McGinley are concerned, we’d better get used to the ups and downs of the greatest golfing talent yet to emerge from these shores.
Comparing McIlroy to the charismatic Seve Ballesteros, McGinley said: “My opinion on Rory six months ago, is the same opinion I have now. I don’t think Rory is ever going to be a flatline golfer. I think it’s in his DNA to be up-and-down.
“If you look at him this time last year, the same questions were coming: Why has Rory gone off form, he’s missed three or four cuts in a row, he’s this, and that and all of a sudden a few weeks off and he wins the US PGA and he’s off and he played fantastically well.
“He’s never going to be a Nick Faldo who is going to flatline and I think we just have to accept that and let him get on with it.
“He’ll come through the bit of a trough that he’s had and have success again He’s going to be an up-and-down, that’s just the way he is.
“That’s one of the reasons why Seve was so exciting, he was up-and-down, too. I think that’s the X-Factor that Rory has. He can win any week.”
Harrington agrees with McGinley’s assessment of the Holywood hotshot and while he’s not offering advice, he believes it will take time for the young tyro to learn what makes him tick and either find more consistency or learn to live with his erratic nature
“The great thing about Rory, he’s only ever one golf shot away from playing great,” the Dubliner said. “You know, he’s proved that numerous times in his short career.
“How many people would love to be able to say, ‘If I play well, I’m going to win’?
“Most people think I’ve got to play well and get the breaks to win. But Rory, all he has to do is play well, not get any bad breaks and he’ll win.”
Making one of his favourite analogies, McGinley added: “When he gets that feeling and when he just feels comfortable and things start clicking for him, he gets in his Rolls Royce and heads off into the distance. That can happen at any time and that’s what makes him so exciting.”
Harrington believes that McIlroy would be better off forgetting about striving for consistency if he wants to avoid the frustrations that have seen him loose his cool several time already this year.
“Look, in perfect world, I want to be consistent,” Harrington said. “But I guarantee you, if I got consistency, I would hate it because I’m not consistently going to win every week. That’s been proved; it’s impossible.
“I practice to have consistency. I practice to have the capability. It really is not what we want. We want to have greatness as often as possible, to have a peak, that’s essentially what we’re looking for. We are not looking for steady.
“If you want to look at that, look at the guys who lead greens in regulation and fairways in regulation over the last ten years. They are not the elite players in the game. So you want a little bit of the erratic genius in your game and a little bit of peaks and troughs and hopefully it evens out over time.
“You want consistency in maybe your goalkeeper or defender but not when you have 156 guys, because you’ve got to have a special week to win on Tour.
“Top 10s, making cuts, that’s consistent, but my career and Rory’s career and many careers won’t be marked by Top 10s. They are nice when you have them but they are long forgotten pretty quickly afterward.
“I’m certainly not telling Rory anything in what I’m saying here. I do believe he realises that he’s not mediocre in any shape or form and that’s why he never plays mediocre. He either plays great or he doesn’t.”