Rory McIlroy’s hopes of extending his PGA Tour season into next week’s Tour Championship depend on him finishing in the top seven in the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs in Chicago this week.
But while the former world No 1 knows he can make enough birdies to pull it off in his defence of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club, he must cut out the unforced errors that have troubled him all season and regain the short game brilliance that saw him dominate the game in the latter part of last year.
‘‘I have to be aggressive,’’ McIlroy told the Associated Press this week.
Ranked 41st in the standings with only the top 30 advancing to East Lake, McIroy has studied his statistics and come to the conclusion that his short game has not been sharp enough.
Recharged after a week’s practice in the Bahamas, he said: “I’m driving the ball better. I’m hitting a few more greens. That isn’t the issue. I’m just not getting up-and-down as much as I used to.
“All I did for the last four days was practice those things.’’
According to Doug Ferguson’s AP report, McIlroy can see why he’s been so inconsistent:
‘‘Here’s a stat for you,’’ he said. ‘‘I was 169th in putts per round in the first round. And I’m first in the second round. That’s a strange one. … But that’s the whole thing. It’s the short game. That’s where I’m throwing shots away, taking four shots to get down. I’ve just got to cut out the mistakes.’’
The sooner the better or his season will be over. McIlroy said he would be more surprised if the year ended without going to East Lake for the Tour Championship than failing to win a major. The latter is far more important, to be clear, but let him explain.
‘‘You have to play really good golf in that one week, four weeks a year,’’ he said. ‘‘Everything has to come together, and you need to get a few breaks. But over the course of the season, I feel like I should play well enough to get to East Lake. I didn’t expect to be in this position.’’
Graeme McDowell, who is 48th in the FedEx Cup standings, must finish in the top-six on Sunday to have a chance of qualifying for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
Despite picking up three wins around the world this year - two in Europe and one in the US - the world No 11 has been inconsistent, missing seven cuts.
Since claiming the Open de France, he’s finished 58th in The Open, 74th in the RBC Canadian Open, 40th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, 12th in the US PGA and missed the cut at The Barclays before coming home tied 47th in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston two weeks ago.