KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Give Rory McIlroy a “B” grade this season. The Northern Irishman has risen to No. 1 in the world. He won a tournament on the PGA Tour, the Honda Classic in March. But then he went through a dry spell in the middle of the year, and he’s failed to contend in any of the season’s first three majors. So, on his 2012 report card, mark him down for a “B,” he said – good, not great.
Of course, a strong performance this week at Kiawah Island could erase the sting of underwhelming performances in golf’s biggest events. Since his resounding victory at the 2011 U.S. Open, which many pundits believed would spark the dawning of the Rory Era, McIlroy has finished no better than T-25 in the majors.
“I’m disappointed that I have not contended since – that’s been the disappointing thing,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I haven’t even given myself a chance. … It would be great to give myself a chance this week, get into contention and just feel that buzz again of getting into a major and remembering how it feels.”
McIlroy, however, has a good track record at this tournament, finishing in the top 3 in two of the past three PGA Championships, including in 2010 at Whistling Straits, another Pete Dye course that is visually demanding off the tee. Said McIlroy, “I like what I see here.”
Especially on the greens.
Much has been made of the paspalum greens at Kiawah’s Ocean Course, which McIlroy described as “sticky” and “spinny.” But McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald and others all practice at the Bear’s Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., which also features paspalum. Perhaps a slight advantage there.
Said McIlroy, “I think most Pete Dye courses anyway are mental challenges more than physical.”