If there was one thing Rory McIlroy desperately needed when he teed it up at the Shanghai Masters, it was a win. That's not to say his game wasn't in superb shape coming into the Far East tournament. His worst finish in his four previous events was a T-3, so he wasn't mired in a slump by any means.
But ever since McIlroy captured his historic U.S. Open win at Congressional, the talk has slowly shifted from his on-course success to recent off-course drama that's all but overshadowed the kid's impressive season.
In the months following the win, golf scribes have spent time talking about everything from his relationship status and Twitter battles to his split from manager Chubby Chandler. No matter where McIlroy goes these days, he seems to be in the news. However, none of the headlines are the kind he'd like to be making.
That all changed on Sunday, though, as McIlroy held off Anthony Kim in a playoff to take the $2 million first-place check at the Shanghai Masters. While the money was certainly a big deal -- it was the biggest payday of his career -- you have to believe the victory meant a bit more to McIlroy because it finally had people focusing on the one thing that made him a superstar in the first place -- that, of course, being his incredible game.
No matter what McIlroy does for the rest of his career, he's going to be scrutinized and questioned for every move he makes. Winning will certainly make people focus on your on-course success, but sooner or later, he's going to need to find a perfect balance between the the two. It won't be easy, but as he continues to mature, you have to believe he'll figure it out.