Wednesday, May 22, 2024

McIlroy seeking ‘that little bit of something’ to stoke major fire – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Rory McIlroy has three more chances this year to win a Major before it officially becomes a ten-year drought.

But the world number two could not be more upbeat about his game, which he considers far superior now to what it was in 2014 when he won the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

He returns to the Louisville venue next week for a crack at that elusive fifth Major win and with ten top-fives and another ten top-tens in 35 major starts since he held off Phil Mickelson in 2014, he’s arguably better equipped than ever.

All he needs, he believes, is “that little bit of something” to stoke the fire.

He knows finding that major spark at the right time is all it might take to get back to winning ways in the events he covets most.

“I don’t want to get too much into the data stuff, but if you look at my numbers over the last four years and compare them to earlier in my career, yeah, I’m a better player,” he told The Quadrilateral’s Geoff Shackelford when reminiscing about 2014.

“The results in the biggest events haven’t married up with that, but I’m still grinding away. I’m a good enough player to just play my way into contention, but it’s when I get into contention, say, on that back nine on Sunday at Valhalla, it’s just needing that little bit of something. 

“At Valhalla (in 2014) it was Phil and Ricky fist-pumping on the way to the 12th tee. Whatever it is, just tell yourself a story to get that fire going. 

“Not that you should need a fire playing for a major championship. It’s the biggest thing that we do. I know that I’m a better player now than I was back then. 

“And the narrative has been, ‘Rory hasn’t won a major in 10 years, so what’s going on or what’s wrong?’ But I’ve done everything else there is to do in the game in those last 10 years. It’s just a matter of getting over the line in one of those big four.”

At Valhalla in 2014, found the spark he needed to reel in Mickelson and Ricky Fowler with a four-under back nine.

“I was in the lead, then quickly lost the lead,” he recalled. “Ricky and Phil were up ahead of me and making a charge, and then on seven, the par five, I hit this really cool chip over the bunker and made birdie there.

“And then the eagle on 10 was where everything turned around. The luckiest golf shot of my life. I remembered that I had hit one OB left on ten so I was trying to hit this high draw. Instead, I hit this low necky cut that ran up onto the green to six feet.

“I’d gotten maybe one behind at that point and Ricky and Phil fist-pumped each other walking off 11 green. That almost felt like two-on-one in a way. And I was like, ‘I’m going to get these guys.’ And then honestly, I hardly missed a shot on the way in.”

He will be seeking that spark again next week but first joins Shane Lowry and Seamus Power at Quail Hollow where he will bidding for his fourth win in the Wells Fargo Championship.

McIlroy and Lowry will be joined at Valhalla by 2008 champion Padraig Harrington. But Power must win in Charlotte after failing to make the field automatically.

The PGA of America is reserving spots for the winners of the two PGA Tour events this week, the Wells Fargo Championship and the opposite field Myrtle Beach Classic, where Louisville’s Max Kennedy has withdrawn to help his college in the forthcoming NCAA Regionals.

Kennedy won his place in the field by winning the General Hackler event at the Dunes Club earlier this season but the organizers were unaware of the college clash.

The Dubliner graduates next week and may be compensated with a tour start elsewhere this year.

Meanwhile, the TGL yesterday announced the last of the team rosters for the high-tech indoor golf league that starts in January 2025, with Lowry joining US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Masters runner-up Ludvig Aberg and Min Woo Lee on The Bay Club team.

The San Francisco Bay Area roster is the last of the six teams to be announced though the Boston-based franchise has still to find a replacement for LIV Golf’s Tyrrell Hatton.

Elsewhere, the £250,000 (€290,000) NI Open, presented by Tom McKibbin, will be one of the elevated events on this year’s Challenge Tour schedule at Galgorm from July 25-28.

McKibbin, who graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2022 and is now a DP World winner, will play the Pro-Am at the Ballymena venue on July 23.

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