USPGA Championship blog: McIlroy lost

Rory McIlroy’s USPGA Championship press conference could have been construed as positive. He did, after all, make some encouraging comments about the state of his game.

“My game doesn’t feel too far away,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’m going in the right direction.”

I admire McIlroy for attempting to put a brave face on things, and for staying positive in the face of relative adversity. Sadly, though, these statements did little to mask the fact that McIlroy
is still struggling with his game, and still struggling to understand
why. Anyone adept at reading inference will know the discrepancy between what he says and how he feels is vast.

I sat in on his press conferences at the BWM PGA Championship and the Open and his rhetoric was the same. He declared he was making progress and used words like ‘promising’ to describe the state of his game.

Since the BMW PGA, however, the 23-year-old has missed three of six cuts and failed to notch a top-25 finish. You can understand why I’m choosing to take a glass-half-empty stance when it comes to McIlroy’s prospects this week.

Some of the other dialogue he used in his press conference could also be perceived as negative. Statements like “it’s not where I want it to be”, “hopefully I can challenge”, “if I can” and “once I get my long game back on track” don’t exactly instil confidence. Under the positive facade, it’s fairly clear how McIlroy views his chances this week.

Still, this is golf, and as we know, anything can happen. No one seems completely sure why McIlroy is struggling, not least the man himself. His high-profile equipment switch, huge expectation levels, his tender years, his celebrity girlfriend and swing changes have all been touted as reasons, and with some justification, but sometimes I think you need to accept there isn’t a complete explanation.

One thing is certain, though: form is temporary, class is permanent. Margins between success and failure are so small in the professional ranks, as all the best players have discovered over the years.

Sooner or later, McIlroy will find something, figure out what’s been going wrong and start winning golf tournaments again. That statement is unequivocal and indisputable.

Who knows, it could even be this week. It certainly wouldn’t be the most unexpected thing to happen in a major championship. Just look at who won the last time Oak Hill staged the USPGA.