Rory McIlroy's Major drought is set to continue

Credit: AFP

At least Donald Trump did not have to send in a diver to retrieve Rory McIlroy’s club. But then, the Irishman did not even class his actions on the teebox of the 14th as a “throw”. 

First, McIlroy seemed to struggle even to remember the incident when asked by Telegraph Sport straight after his third-round 69 that should have been so much lower. “The 14th, the 14th..” he said rewinding the tape in his mind. 

“When you threw the club, Rory?” 

“It wasn’t really a club throw was it? It was just a little toss.” McIlroy replied.

“But you were clearly pissed off?” 

“Not as pissed off as Tyrrell Hatton yesterday,” McIlroy said.

No, the 32-year-old did not break the club in half in the manner of his Ryder Cup team-mate and to be fair his throw/little toss was nowhere as dramatic as in the 2015 World Golf Championship at Trump’s Doral, when he hurled a three-iron into a lake before being relocated by a man in a frog suit. 

But regardless of McIlroy’s downplaying – and honestly, does it really matter? – there can be no doubt that it neatly summed up his frustration. “I want for nothing,” he told the reporters on Friday. Apart from a straight tee-shot on a par five.

An Open Championship Saturday that had started so promisingly, finished on such a flat note, despite the first round in the 60s of the week that took him to one-under. Out in 31, back in 38. It was a veritable rollercoaster and thrilled the galleries, who afforded him tremendous backing. They cheered his every step, roared his every birdie and were respectfully silent when his ball lipped the hole or his wedges showed their increasingly worrying lack of control. In short, this was hero worship. 

Yet sadly, McIlroy cannot wait to get out of Kent. “Can be there any joy tomorrow?” he was asked. “It will be the last round I play here for a while,” McIlroy said. “That’s a joy.”

Of course, McIlroy says what he thinks and that is one of the reasons why he is so popular. Except on mornings such as this, his body language says it all anyway. The swagger was there early on, when he birdied four of the first seven holes and even the bogey on the fifth was not his entirely his fault as there was a discernible camera click in his backswing. 

Rory McIlroy let his frustration get the better of him after a wayward drive at the 14th 👀😤

📺 Watch the third round live on Sky Sports #TheOpen

— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) July 17, 2021

And when he birdied the ninth, he was up to four-under, only seven off Louis Oosthuizen’s overnight lead and five off second place. At that stage, McIlroy, the 2014 champion, was still in this.

Yet after a fine par save on the 10th, he yanked a tiddler on the 11th and after bogeying the 13th, came the throw/toss on the 14th and then the Red Rum of all horseshoes on the 15th. “That putt on 15 epitomised how the game is for me right now,” McIlroy said. “Sort of a tale of two nines. I played great on the front nine, hit some really good iron shots, converted some putts and really got it going.

“Then the back nine played tough. They’re sort of tucking the pins away. They’ve stretched the course out to as long as it can play. I was hitting two-iron into the 11th. I missed a short putt there for par and it kind of killed the momentum I had.

"Not birdieing the par five (14th) and making another couple of bogeys on the way in, certainly it felt like a better round than one under par. But it was encouraging to see some of the golf that I played on that front nine.

McIlroy and his multitude of admirers need to remain patient, as his relationship with coach Pete Cowen continues to take root. Admittedly, that is easier said than done as his majorless run now goes into an eighth season. A stat posted on Twitter screams of the exasperation. “1,148 days: timespan in which McIlroy won four majors from 2011 to 2014. 2,533 days: timespan since his last major triumph seven years ago”.

Yet wait and believe, McIlroy and his fan club must. There is nothing else for it. He has only been with Cowen for 3 1/2 months and the mission to eradicate the two-way miss is progressing. The problem is that McIlroy won in May and the declaration went up that he was back. We now realise that, at best, Quail Hollow was a mere glimpse of what may yet follow.

“I keep saying I’m close and that front nine was sort of proof that it is in there,” McIlroy said. “It’s a matter of turning that nine holes into 18 holes and then hopefully turning 18 holes into an entire tournament. There are signs it is going in the right direction, I just couldn’t keep it going for the rest of the round.”

Next up for McIlroy is a welcome return home to Florida. He has not seen his wife and baby daughter, Poppy, for three weeks. He will enjoy 10 days in their company before flying to Tokyo to represent Tokyo in the Olympics. On this evidence, and with his terminology, he is far better off in the golf event than the javelin.