Rory McIlroy kind of wished Emiliano Grillo’s tee shot hit him -- anything but another day at the Silverado Resort and Spa. “Would have put me out of my misery,” McIlroy said half-kidding, half-serious after Grillo drove into him on the 17th hole on Saturday at the Frys.com Open, thinking the green was clear. Woe is the world’s No. 3 golfer, who has already called this a lost season after missing the Open Championship at St. Andrews and going 0-for-4 in the majors. Making it worse after a T-26 at the Frys is that since the PGA Championship, McIlroy has not been a factor in any of the five events he’s played.
Missing putts (while Jordan Spieth and Jason Day seemed to be making everything) has been McIlroy’s misery since the PGA at Whistling Straits. Even before rupturing an ankle ligament playing soccer in July, his only hot round with the putter since winning the Wells Fargo by seven strokes in May came on Sunday at the U.S. Open, when he shot 66 after a phone lesson from Dave Stockton.
Coincidentally, Stockton was at the Frys.com Open as a tournament honoree. The two said hello after dinner one night, and Stockton followed him during the pro-am. But other than Stockton giving McIlroy a thumbs-up, they did little communicating on the subject of putting.
“I think it’s more mental than anything else,” McIlroy said. “Whenever you don’t see anything go in, it makes it harder and harder each and every hole that goes by.”
What a way to ruin a great working vacation in the wine country, particularly after making another of those long journeys that McIlroy is starting to complain about as a global player, this one 12 hours from Europe to Northern California. By Wednesday night he had ticked all the required boxes: visiting a winery, eating the cuisine of Thomas Keller, even cracking that he was trying to find a balance between not feeling too hungover and teeing it up the next day.
The box he ultimately wants to tick, though, is at Augusta National in April. Although McIlroy said his game felt better than it did at the Tour Championship, where he finished T-16, his body language, energy level and facial expressions said otherwise. “Just very frustrating,” he called it.
McIlroy was in Napa in exchange for a release to play an exhibition called the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in 2012. According to numbers released a week earlier by one of his sponsors, McIlroy had already spent two weeks flying to events in 2015 and 287 nights in hotel rooms. McIlroy called these “crazy numbers,” with more to come.
McIlroy next travels to the Turkish Airlines Open, the HSBC Champions in China and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. The travel and media demands have become so rigorous— especially with a Ryder Cup and Olympic year looming—that McIlroy has considered dropping his European Tour membership.
It’s not like he doesn’t have a life. He spent the weekend before Napa hanging out in London. Had he not been at the Frys.com, he would have been in Wales rooting on the Irish Rugby Team in the World Cup. Instead he headed to the airport, first stopping at In-and-Out Burger before jumping on a plane for the 12-hour journey back to London. Among his upcoming travel plans is a trip to Dubai, where he does some of his best work. The season may not be lost just yet.