Rory McIlroy raised a few eyebrows at Sandwich on Sunday when he trooped off after his final round and declared that he can’t wait to get to play in some decent weather in the US next month.
Blown away by the weather at Royal St George’s, where he finished 12 shots behind compatriot Darren Clarke in a share of 25th, McIlroy appeared to wave a white flag regarding the unique test that Open Championship presents.
“My game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don’t enjoy playing in really. That’s the bottom line,” he said as a black cloud hovered over his head, literally and metaphorically. “I’d rather play when it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.”
His comments brought back memories of the 2009 Irish Open, when he insisted that the Ryder Cup was an exhibition. He would soon change his tune, of course, but this time he’s not for turning. He doesn’t like playing golf in bad weather and isn’t going to change his swing to adjust.
McIlroy’s manager, Chubby Chandler, believes his youngest player is right not to change. But that doesn’t mean the curly-haired wonder from Holywood can’t win a Claret Jug or two.
Besides, Chandler added, Rory was a little hot under the collar when he sounded off on Sunday.
“I think he’s right,” Chandler said. “Why would you change what he’s got? What will happen is that he will gradually learn to play the shots that Darren learned 15 years ago. But at 22 he has not got the experience. And it won’t be a case of changing his game. He won’t need to do that because he can win a lot of golf tournaments with that game.
“He will get a couple of times when the wind is not up in the Open and it will be a lot easier. But he will learn. He will learn to play becuase I tell you what, he has learnt an awful lot in a year. Last year he had no idea. This year he was much better.”
McIlroy didn’t quite throw the toys out of the pram at Sandwich, but he was certainly frustrated.
As Chandler noted: “You guys get them when they’re disappointed when they have just finished. So what comes out of their mouth, Bubba Watson style isn’t always what they are thinking. So you have always got to temper that. He is not going to go away and think I have got to practice this way and that way to win the Open. But he will get better at it.”
McIlroy should be well able to cope with the wind and rain having grown up in Ireland. Yes, he has a high ball flight and complains that it sometimes takes a few weeks to get his swing back into full working order after a week in the wind.
At this year’s Honda Classic, he was gobbled up by the Bear Trap on Friday and made up the numbers for the weekend, hardly bothering to try and combat the wind as he came home tied for 70th.
Phil Mickelson’s runner up finish at Sandwich should be enough to convince McIlroy that he can win the Open no matter what the weather.
His coach, Michael Bannon, said before the Open that his pupil could hit the ball “two feet” off the ground if necessary. That’s the kind of golf that so impressed R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson when he watched Rickie Fowler in the Eisenhower Trophy at Royal Adelaide in 2008
“The wind was howling but Rickie won the individual, which isn’t really a prize there,” Dawson recalled at Sandwich on Monday. “I walked half a dozen holes with him and he never hit the ball higher than that (indicating chest height), whereas his two compatriots just got blown away. Boy he’s a great wind player, really good.”
McIlroy and Fowler played the first three round together with the American outscoring the Ulsterman by six shots in Saturday’s wind. If you didn’t know, you would have thought that the McIlroy had been brought up in California and Fowler in County Down.
“As Rory said, it isn’t always windy at the Open,” Dawson added.