News & ToursJune 3, 2015

Rory McIlroy takes a much-needed break before U.S. Open

(This story originally appeared in this week's issue of Golf World.)

Where does Rory McIlroy go from here?

The simple answer is Chambers Bay for the U.S. Open. Still, the next two weeks will be more difficult as McIlroy sorts out some performance issues.

Rory missed the cut at the Irish Open after his second-round 71 couldn't offset an opening 80 on a rainy, windswept Royal County Down. I asked him how he could shoot 21 under (with a third-round 61) to win the Wells Fargo Championship for his seventh victory in 12 months and then follow that with missed cuts at the BMW PGA Championship and Irish Open, where he was serving as the tournament host.

The World No. 1 said the weather at the Wells Fargo in Charlotte had been perfect, and the course played soft. "That's my game," McIlroy said, conceding an ambivalence for links golf. "That's what I do best."

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Since McIlroy couldn't deliver for the hometown fans at Royal County Down, he focused on benevolence. His involvement in Daisy Lodge, a retreat for children with cancer and their parents at the base of Slieve Donard—the highest peak in Northern Ireland—is more than a public-relations venture. Stories of McIlroy driving down from Holywood on Christmas morning to visit the families unannounced are true.

Also, helping to re-energize the Irish Open, in part by recruiting American stars like Rickie Fowler, has been an admirable undertaking for McIlroy. It's assumed he will continue in this role when the tournament moves to the K Club next year, which should suit Rory's game better than hailstones and 40-mile-per-hour crosswinds.

What remains perplexing is that classic links like County Down, which is about an hour's drive from McIlroy's boyhood home, haven't brought out his good golf. This was McIlroy's third-straight missed cut in the Irish Open.

Related: The Grind: Rory shows off his girlfriend for first time

When I asked how he would be spending the rest of the weekend, McIlroy betrayed some of the weariness he felt from playing five straight weeks over eight time zones when he said, "[I] won't be playing golf, that's for sure." However, his duties as host prevented him from completely disappearing. "[You] might see me on the 18th green on Sunday," he said. "But apart from that, just try to get away from it a little bit and sort of refresh and get ready for the U.S. Open."

McIlroy came back a little more rested on Sunday and presented the trophy to Soren Kjeldsen. He wouldn't use his role as host as an excuse. "It's not as difficult as you might think," he said. "It hasn't been that bad."

Still, even with three wins in 2015, McIlroy's recent global schedule has been less than ideal. The truth is, if he had to drop a tournament among his past five, it would have been the Wells Fargo, not the WGC-Match Play, not the Players, and not the two showcase events in Europe.

"I'm playing at home in front of a lot of friends and family and obviously got a lot of support out here," he said. "To not play the way I wanted to was, or is, disappointing."

But as he has shown in the past (most notably before the 2011 U.S. Open he won by eight), he's fully capable of turning it around in a hurry. Which bodes well for Chambers Bay.

Follow @TimRosaforte


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