PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (Swing Update) – Rory McIlroy has been playing his most consistent golf since the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, when he did not finish worse than the third in nine out of 12 tournaments in the world , with two wins, the last in the Honda Classic which placed him for the first time in the world rank.
The difference is winning.
His sixth-place finish last week at Bay Hill was his worst result in five starts on the PGA Tour this year. McIlroy preaches patience, and the real measure will be at the Masters next month when he will try to finish his Grand Slam career.
What really strikes you is that Bay Hill was the ninth time in his last 30 tournaments dating back to 2018 that he was playing in the last group without winning.
"I'm playing well, I'd much rather put myself in a position to have a chance to win," said McIlroy after closing with a 72 at Bay Hill. He started the last lap behind Matt Fitzpatrick and fired four shots behind Francesco Molinari.
"It does not matter if I play golf Thursday, Friday, Saturday … yeah, my Sundays are not what I would have liked," McIlroy said when pressed for his chances in the last group. "But I put myself in that position, so a good golf is good golf and I keep saying that at the end of the day."
Some context is required.
Of the nine times in the last group, he was at least three out of five. The only time anyone has come further to win on these occasions is Kapalua, where Xander Schauffele closed with a 62.
The others were against Dustin Johnson in Mexico, Tiger Woods in the Tour Championship, Justin Thomas at Firestone and Patrick Reed at the Masters.
Bay Hill was the only time McIlroy did not break his record in the final.
Still, he had his chances. The turning point was on the fourth hole, just after McIlroy managed a 25-foot putt to tie in first place. He missed a 5-foot birdie putt. He missed another chance to score a sixth on the normal 5 and the hole started to shrink.
He only managed two birdies in the last inning.
The next step is the Players Championship, a real test for McIlroy. He missed the cup four times in nine appearances.
"It's the great thing about golf," McIlroy said. "You do not have to wait too long to go back on horseback."
DAY OF RETURN
Jason Day only managed six holes at Bay Hill before retiring with a backache. He is ready to go to the Players Championship after consulting a doctor, receiving four injections of cortisone around the spine and keeping calm after the reaction of social media to a picture of Day at Disney World with his children.
Day said his back was played for the first time when he was at the TPC Sawgrass a few weeks, and that the match had been closed Sunday before Bay Hill. He followed a therapy all week and thought that playing could relax her. Day said Thursday's injections eased much of the pain.
And then came the trip to Disney.
He stated that the doctor he had seen in West Palm Beach did not want him, so he took his kids to a theme park, where someone took a picture of him from the side. He was seen on social media as a player who could not walk and then went to Disney.
"God forbid me to spend a day with my family and I was there half a day to walk around," said Day. "He did not want me to go to bed, he just wanted me to walk, to stay up, to let go a little, and then to see my physio at the golf course." Of course, these four needles helped a lot, and I can not wait to start this week. "
Day said that he was cautiously optimistic for the week, his route to the Masters and beyond.
The PGA Tour records indicate that he has retired at least eight times, and that it was the first time since the circuit championship in 2016. Day declared that he had back problems since the age of 13 and that this familiarity generates some contempt.
"The difficulty with injuries, is that no matter how many times you have had them, you feel like your world is ending," he said. "In all honesty, I thought," Will this be the last time I go for a golf club? "It's not good for you to come back mentally from an injury, so your confidence in yourself is a little affected, but overall, I feel good."
PUTTING OF TIGER
After one of his worst performances in Mexico, Tiger Woods requested outside help from the Players Championship. Matt Killen, based in Kentucky, was with during a nine-hole practice tour. Woods knows him through Justin Thomas, who has been using Killen since entering his first year in Alabama.
Killen also works with J. B. Holmes.
"I've seen Matt here over the last year because he worked a lot with J. T. and that Matt had seen enough of my attack," Woods said. "I wanted him to look at the situation and see what he thought of the current state of my setup versus all the times I wrote well, and I was fine adapted to different postures throughout my career .. different things but I wanted him to take a look at it, then he mentioned a few things. "
Thomas found an aspect to this humorous.
"Many people have discovered that he was my personal trainer this week," Thomas said.
This is not the first time Woods asks anyone to watch him. He leaned on Steve Stricker in 2013 at Doral (that he won two shots on Stricker). Mike Thomas, Justin's father and a career club professional, has already seen him during a training session last year.
Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo have already shared space in the 18th round for ABC Sports as co-analysts with Mike Tirico. Faldo defeated Azinger at the 1987 British Open in Muirfield, and Azinger defeated him as captain of the Ryder Cup in 2008.
They will be gathered again in the championship of the players during a few hours on Friday.
Tirico is organizing a show called "Vantage Point", which will debut on Wednesday night, and will host the parties on Thursday and Friday. The plan is that he be joined Friday on the stand by Azinger and Faldo.
This will be the first time the trio has formed as a broadcast group since the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie.
Sarah LeBrun Ingram, who has played in three Curtis Cup teams and has been a three-time winner of the American Mid-Amateur, has been named Captain of the American Curtis Cup Team for 2020 at Conwy Golf Club in Wales. … Kyle Williams, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills, and 2011 Louisiana Amateur Champion Greg Berthelot, have qualified for the four-ball American Amateur Championship to be held May 25-29 in Bandon Dunes. … Barbasol has signed a five-year extension to become the main sponsor of the PGA Tour event in Kentucky, which takes place in front of the British Open.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only 24 players out of 144 Players Championship players played in the tournament when it was held in March.
"I do not think there's regularly a lot of courses that would fit my game better. I honestly think I'm too excited, too optimistic, and honestly too prepared for that." – Justin Thomas on the Masters.