Rory McIlroy made two early double bogeys in the final round of his defence of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston and not even a man of his talents could quite repair the damage.
On the face out it, rounds of 70, 71, 64 and 72 for 277 (the same mark as 70 shooter Graeme McDowell) don’t look too bad. But that’s before you see that Henrik Stenson, who was ranked 52 places behind McIlroy in the rankings at the start of this year (and 220 places behind him at the start of 2012) shot rounds of 67, 63, 66 and 66 to beat him by 15 strokes and win by two from Steve Stricker on 22 under par.
McIlroy (and McDowell) finished tied for 47th, slipping further down the pecking order in the FedEx Cup standings. As a result, the are in danger of missing The Tour Championship. What’s worse for McIlroy (and McDowell) is that they’ve both slipped down the latest world rankings.
McIlroy was overtaken by Justin Rose and fell one place to fifth from No 1 at the start of the year though we are assured by men with slide rules and Excel tables that he will be back at No 4 next week. As for McDowell, Stricker ousted him from the world’s Top 10, pushing down to 11th.
At the end of the day, the numbers will look after themselves and the cream will rise to the top and while the year looks like a write-off, McIlroy is not ready to concede defeat just yet.
After all, he specialises in proving his critics wrong and will be keen to come back out for the third leg of the play-offs following this week’s enforced break, retain the BMW Championship (fomerly the Western Open) and then go to East Lake and win the Tour Championship, taking home as much of the $10m FedEx Cup loot as he can.
We know he’s capable of it, but given his form in recent weeks - he’s made eight double bogeys and a triple in his last nine rounds - the glittering golf has beeen tarnished by the dross of unforced errors.
Even if McIlroy fails to make the Tour Championship - a small marketing reverse for Nike Golf following their hefty investment in the Northern Irishman at the start of the year - he still has the Race to Dubai’s Final Series to fall back on. Failing that, there’s the Australian Open or Woods’ end of season event.
What must be frustrating for him is that his good golf is more than good enough. After all, he’s also made 42 birdies and an eagle in those last nine rounds. Cut out the mistakes and he’s ready to win.
His slide down the world rankings is not surprising considering he has yet to win this year and his gradually shed the points he won during the stunning 2012 season.
When he announced his deal with Nike in January, he was 4.543 points clear of Woods at the top of the world rankings. Neither of them has won a major this year but the American has still added five trophies to the cabinet and now leads the Holywood man by 6.398 world ranking points.
A cursory look at the world ranking tells us that 40 players have won more points than McIlroy this year - start at John Merrick, Thorbjorn Olesen, Scott Piercy, Jamie Donaldson and Michael Thompson and work your way up.
It’s been a bad year too for both Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry. The Dubliner was 59th in the world on 31 December last year but fell another five spots to 91st heading to Switzerland for this week’s Omega European Masters at Crans
As for the Offaly man, he will tee it up in the Alps he is now world No 82, four places lower than last week and 30 spots down on his position at the end of 2012.