Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell have been grouped together for the first two rounds of the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis this week. But despite the somewhat unpredictable form of the three Irish major winners this season, I doubt they will be making any special petitions to St Jude himself, the patron saint of of desperate cases and lost causes. And why should they.
“My pairing FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis… @McIlroyRory and Harrington. Could have just played in Portrush or somewhere closer! #fun”
Like all golfers, the blessed trinity waiting for that time when the stars align, the swing flows effortlessly and the score happens almost by accident. Whether the will get that special delivery this week is anyone’s guess but all three could do with a dollop of confidence before next week’s US Open test.
Professional sportsmen rarely perform at the very highest level every time they step out into the arena, especially in golf. Some, like McIlroy, have more inspired days that others but the rest of the time it’s a question of achieving an average level of performance that is well above the scope of the journeyman professional
The tour grind, while well rewarded, is a game of snakes and ladders. For the elite player, it’s a dangerous high wire act. The higher the peaks, the deeper the troughs appear to be. The greater the highs, the tougher the lows are to take.
Watching the dynamic between the three at TPC Southwind will be fascinating.
McDowell, the man in the middle age wise, will talk a confident game before the start, as he always does. It’s a twitchy confidence though, and the mood can swing wildly from utter frustration one day to boundless positiivity the next.
After giving Tiger Woods an easy ride at Bay Hill, losing to Nicolas Colsaerts in the the Volvo World Match Play final and then missing the cut in the BMW PGA, the dogged Portrush man will be keen to truly kick start his summer here. After all, the Olympic Club should be right up his alley and he’s got a Ryder Cup place to secure.
McIlroy may well look back on the spring of 2012 with a wry smile and wonder what he got so worked up about. He appears to have outfoxed himself in the early part of the season. Playing so well for so long, he thought he could maintain by playing less and then hit the turbo button as the major season rolled around.
It just hasn’t panned out the way he planned. Always fearful of burnout, he got the balance slightly wrong and lost his co-ordination in the wrong place at the wrong time. While he’s the man with time on his side, he’s the least patient of the three and playing alongside Harrington and McDowell might be exactly what he needs to right the ship before heading into the turbulent waters of a US Open defence.
As for Harrington, the Dubliner’s form continues to perplex. If McIlroy has missed his last three cuts, Harrington has missed two of the last three since contending on the final day of the Masters. He says he’s discovered what many have thought was blindingly obvious for months, that he’s been decelerating on his putts.
Hurtling out of the world top 100 at 96th, Harrington badly needs a win. But his form in Memphis has never neen great. Cut in 2007 and 2009, he was fourth in 2008 but finished 56th and 52nd in his last two starts.
He might be a desperate case but he’s far from a lost cause. St Jude can carry on with more important business for now.