“I feel sort of close but also so far away at the same time. It’s hard to explain.”
Much about Rory McIlroy’s 2023 has been hard to explain.
The Northern Irishman came into the year as the No. 1 player in the world and maintained the top spot until Scottie Scheffler won the WM Phoenix Open for the second consecutive year. Still, McIlroy’s game seemed like it was in a good place as major championship season approached.
Full-field scores from the PGA Championship
Then, beginning with a missed cut at The Players Championship, Rory McIlroy started to look less and less like Rory McIlroy on the golf course.
There was hope that he had righted the ship after a third-place finish at the WGC-Match Play, then came another free weekend after missing the cut at the Masters.
It was then that McIlroy decided to head home and take a couple weeks away from golf despite the $3 million penalty he incurred by doing so.
His only start between the Masters and the PGA Championship was a T-47 at Wells Fargo, and even McIlroy didn’t like his chances coming into the week at Oak Hill.
“I honestly didn't feel like I had a chance of winning this week,” McIlroy said after Sunday’s final round. “So it was just about going out there and playing the best I could and trying to make the most of it.”
There were signs over the last four days that perhaps McIlroy would put it all together and make a charge, but just like Sunday when he opened his final round with a birdie only to follow with a bogey at the second from the middle of the fairway, it just felt as if he was swimming upstream in Allen’s Creek on his way to a T-7 finish.
So what’s to be made of another top 10 in a major where it never actually felt as if the 23-time PGA Tour winner would be the one holding the trophy?
“I would say a top-10 finish, I would have been pretty happy with that at the start of the week,” McIlroy said. “But then once you're in there and you actually feel like you could have done a little better, it starts to become disappointing. But if I think back to myself on Wednesday, say, just before the tournament started, and someone said, ‘You're going to finish T-7 this week,’ I would say, actually, that's probably not a bad week for me with how I'm feeling about everything.”
T-7 in a major certainly isn’t a bad week, but “disappointing” seems like an appropriate way to describe McIlroy’s 2023 up to this point.