The plight of Rory McIlroy continues at this year’s PGA Championship. After finishing Friday at E, Rory is not completely out of the tournament, but will need a herculean effort on the weekend to even get into contention. This has been the scenario that we have become accustomed to seeing Rory in since his last major win in 2014: with an outside shot at a winning on the weekend. There are many reasons for Rory’s struggles through the years, but a consistent through line is a general sloppiness in his game. During the second round, on the tough par 4 7th, Rory made the wise decision to lay back with an iron. The point of this shot is to limit the risk presented by the creek that juts in on the right side of the hole. Despite this choice to lay back, Rory still found the creek! The ball bounded and probably rolled out further than McIlroy imagined it would, but that’s an inexcusable mistake. If you lay up, you have to lay up. I’m not going to sit here and say that Rory is playing great, but the mental errors he regularly makes in majors are confounding. He sits five behind the leader and you would feel a lot better about his chances if he was four back. Winning the margins is how you win majors and Rory is not currently doing the small things right.
If you think of the great major championship runs we have seen recently out of Brooks Koepka and now Scottie Scheffler, their games could be described as annoyingly tidy. They seemingly have a superpower that allows them to resist giving shots away, even when they don’t have their A games. It allows them to hang on a leaderboard and rise to the top when they hit their inevitable stride. Rory meanwhile often finds himself too far back for when his birdie barrage comes. Less sloppy mistakes like the aforementioned layup on the 7th today would turn a number of back door top 10s into potential wins. When the courses and competition get tougher and the stakes are higher, tournaments become about the players who match talent with bulletproof planning and execution. That is the antithesis of what happened on the 7th and what has happened on so many other holes over the years during this Rory McIlroy major drought.