SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Like a lot of 20-somethings, Rory McIlroy is in a hurry to get ahead in the world.
Patience, however, is going to get him where he wants to go.
There’s no question the Northern Irishman has the skills to win this week’s PGA Championship. He won at Quail Hollow earlier this year, and tied for third at last month’s British Open after matching the major championship record with a 63 in the first round. But he followed that 63 with an 80 on Friday, a round he admits he let “get away from me a little bit,” and he looked more like a sulky teenager that day as he scuffed his feet and rolled his eyes at his bad shots.
“Patience is the key this week,” the 21-year-old McIlroy said Wednesday. “Sometimes it is hard for me to accept that you’re not going to have to have a good day all the time. That’s something that I’m still learning how to do, trying to accept the days that don’t go as well as others do. But that all just comes through experience, and I feel as if I’m getting better at it.”
Big things have been expected from McIlroy since he turned pro in 2007. He earned his European card without going to Q-school, and broke into the top 10 in the world before his 21st birthday. He claimed his first PGA Tour win in May, bringing Quail Hollow to its knees with a 62 on Sunday.
He has three top 10s in eight starts at the major championships, including a tie for third last year at Hazeltine.
“I feel as if I’m hitting it well,” said McIlroy, who tied for ninth last weekend at Firestone. “If I can keep that up for the next few days, hopefully I’ll have a good chance.”
Helping his chances are the struggles of some of the players ahead of him in the world rankings.
The turmoil in Tiger Woods’ personal life continues to take its toll on the golf course, and he arrived at the PGA after his worst tournament ever. Phil Mickelson has faltered in his opportunities to claim the No. 1 ranking over the last two months. Lee Westwood, No. 3 in the world, is out with a calf injury.
“There’s going to be a lot of guys here thinking that it’s the right time for them to break through, and I’m definitely one of those guys,” McIlroy said. “You can never write the likes of Tiger and Phil off. But guys have a lot better chance coming into this event with those two guys not playing great and Lee obviously not playing.”
McIlroy has yet to be in contention at a major Sunday afternoon, but he’s not overly concerned about that. First-time major winners are trendy these days, with five of the last six going to newcomers.
Besides, he had to hold off Mickelson and Angel Cabrera for his victory at Quail Hollow.
“If I can do that on a golf course like Quail Hollow, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it here,” he said. “I know it’s a little bit different, it is a major championship. But the idea is the same: Trying to get the ball in the hole.”