What the heck is wrong with McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy lines up his putt on the 15th green during the third round of the Wells Fargo...

Rory McIlroy lines up his putt on the 15th green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., May 5, 2012. (CHRIS KEANE/Reuters)

JOHN McCARTHY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

TORONTO - Move over Tiger Woods, you’re no longer the only former world No. 1 under the microscope.

Rory McIlroy’s missed cut at the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship coupled with Luke Donald’s win has the see-saw battle for top spot in the rankings leaning in Donald’s favour.

More importantly, McIlroy’s missed cut has golf fans, experts and even the man himself trying to figure out what the problem is.

“I don’t think it’s much,” said McIlroy after ending his week at Wentworth with a 79 on Friday. “I think it’s just putting time in on the range. Just hitting a lot of balls and just sort of getting back into it.”

A quick glance at McIlroy’s season and it seems ridiculous to argue that there’s any cause for concern.

He has played in nine events worldwide and finished in the top five six times, including a victory at the Honda Classic. Not only is that nothing to worry about, it’s wildly impressive.

On the PGA Tour, McIlroy is No. 2 in scoring, No. 4 in all-around ranking and has averaged just a shade under $500,000 per start so far this season.

So, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the three events in which he didn’t finish in the top five were the Masters, the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship. At the season’s first major and the PGA and European Tour’s flagship events, McIlroy has a T-40 and two missed cuts respectively.

So far this year, when golf’s next big thing has needed his game, it hasn’t been there.

There have been some rumblings that the 23-year-old’s jet-setter lifestyle has affected his golf game. McIlroy has been spending a lot of his time globe-trotting with his tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.

Earlier this year, he was famously dragged on to the tennis court by Wozniacki during an exhibition match in New York at Madison Square Garden where he won a point versus Maria Sharapova.

In the past month he has been to the U.S., Italy, France, England … and Monaco.

Who could forget that day in Monaco? Apparently not McIlroy according to this sweet tweet.

“Back in monaco and just had a great hot chocolate with @CaroWozniacki at cafe de Paris :) place is looking good for the grand prix next week.”

Don’t get me wrong, romance is a beautiful thing. Just this past Saturday I settled for going to the driving range for a couple hours instead of playing a full round, because that’s the kind of guy I am. Your welcome, honey.

It’s just difficult to picture a 23-year-old Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger tweeting about hot chocolate, cafes and smiley faces.

Last Friday in England, after missing the cut at Wentworth, McIlroy seemed to admit that extracurricular activities have affected his play.

“I think I might have taken my eye off the ball a little bit, so I just need to go back and work hard,” he said.

Right now, McIlroy is young, rich, brimming with talent, and determined to swallow life whole. As we’ve said here before, golf is a sport of obsession and its history books tend to favour single-minded heroes but maybe Rory is an exception.

In press conferences he’s loose, he’s charming, he’s honest. Or is he naive?

Does handling the game and the spotlight really come easy to him or are his results in the first three big tournaments of the year troubling signs of cracking under pressure?

When McIlroy followed last year’s Sunday meltdown at Augusta with a decisive win at the U.S Open it began the coronation.

But, one dark thought kept creeping into my mind. We still haven’t seen McIlroy triumph under major pressure. By entering the final round at Congressional with an eight-shot lead, McIlroy never had to deal with it. Instead, the day was a well-earned victory lap.

McIlroy has said that until his U.S. Open victory he didn’t really feel like one of the game’s top players and that the major win gave him the confidence to think he could beat anybody.

If that was the day he became a top player, since then the results haven’t been great.

His best finish in the three majors after his win is 25th. Pair those results with the two missed cuts at this season’s biggest non-majors and you have either bad timing or a bad trend.

Only time will tell whether McIlroy ends up being a great player or one of the game’s greats. There’s a big difference.

In the short term, the world No. 2 is shaking up his regular routine and has added the Fedex St. Jude Classic to his schedule the week before he defends his U.S Open title.

McIlroy usually takes the week before a major off but perhaps his recent missed cuts have compelled him to get a few more competitive rounds under his belt before heading to Olympic Club in San Francisco.

With McIlroy, Woods, Donald, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson all teeing it up this weekend at The Memorial, it’s obvious that golf’s big guns are getting locked and loaded for the U.S. Open and another shot at golf history.

Maybe there, at Olympic Club, Rory will give us some of the answers we are looking for.


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