(Getty Images photo)
DUBLIN, Ohio - Rory McIlroy hasn't lost his sense of humor, even if he has momentarily lost his golf game.
After the shocking development of consecutive missed cuts, the reigning U.S. Open champion has slipped behind Luke Donald to No. 2 in the world. As a result of his recent poor play, he not only is entered in this week's Memorial Tournament, but also has added next week's FedEx St. Jude Classic before embarking for San Francisco and defense of his Open title at Olympic Club.
McIlroy, 23, of Northern Ireland, is among seven of the top 10 players in the world competing in the 37th Memorial that begins Thursday at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village GC. The field also includes Donald, four-time winner Tiger Woods and 2011 winner Steve Stricker.
"I just feel like I need some rounds. These two-day weeks aren't really that good for me, so I just want to get some competitive rounds in," McIlroy, drawing laughs, said Wednesday when asked about his detour to Memphis next week. "I'm working on a few things, and I feel trying to put them into competition will be the best way for me to prepare going into the U.S. Open."
Asked when he will arrive at Olympic Club, McIlroy replied, with a sheepish grin, "I'm planning on getting there on Sunday night. Do you know what I mean?"
McIlroy, who finished fifth at last year's Memorial, picked an untimely stretch for poor play, missing the cut in consecutive big events -- at The Players in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and the BMW Championship at Wentworth in England.
Earlier this year, McIlroy's game looked as good as ever as he opened his U.S. schedule with three straight top-3 finishes, including a victory in the Honda Classic. But his game hasn't been the same since then, including a disappointing Masters where he ended up T-40.
"Everyone goes through this, where they just don't feel that comfortable with their game," he conceded, noting that he also is trying to find some equilibrium between his professional and personal life. Both keep him busy and traveling; McIlroy is dating one of the world's top women tennis players, Caroline Wozniacki.
To regain some measure of comfort and familiarity with his vaunted swing, one of golf's most impeccable, McIlroy has been getting reacquainted with the practice tee. He and swing coach Michael Bannon stormed the range at Wentworth, mining the dirt there for six hours, and Bannon has accompanied McIlroy to Muirfield Village.
"We've done some good work, identified a few things in my swing that we just need to look at," McIlroy said. "You know, when you've went on a run where you've hardly finished outside the top five and then all of a sudden two missed cuts, it's more of a shock than anything else, just a little bit surprising, and it's something I haven't really had to deal with in a while, and I just have to knuckle down and figure it out and get back to the way I was at the start of the year."
Donald, who has risen to No. 1 in the world for a fourth time, said he can understand how a player as talented as McIlroy can hit a rut. It happens. It's golf.
"I think Rory talked about it, that he maybe took his eye off the ball," said Donald, who regained the No. 1 slot by defending his title at Wentworth. "I remember when I was 23 and had an attractive girlfriend, I would take my eye off the ball sometimes, as well. You can't blame the kid. But he's obviously realized that, and it looks like he's trying to focus on practicing a little bit harder and getting back to what he does.
"It's a tough game, this game. ... It's a fickle game, and it's tough. You've just got to work through it."
-- Dave Shedloski