CROMWELL, Conn. — For a world-class athlete, Rory McIlroy looked exhausted as he spoke with the media Wednesday at TPC River Highlands. His raingear was drenched, he was unshaven and his body language screamed that he’d rather be back in bed or on a sofa sipping coffee.
Then again, waking up around 5:00 a.m. and playing in a rain-soaked pro-am with four hackers for five hours will take the bounce out of any pro’s step.
There will be no rest for the weary, however, because McIlroy has a 7:45 a.m. tee time with Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson Thursday morning in the opening round of the Travelers Championship.
“I must say, after the board meeting yesterday, my head hit the pillow, and I was out,” he said with a half-smile, referring to the PGA Tour board meeting McIlroy attended Tuesday afternoon after going to a player-only meeting with commissioner Jay Monahan at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
This is the fourth consecutive event for McIlroy – although he did fly home to Florida Sunday evening before hopping back on a plane Monday night and coming to Connecticut – and each tournament has brought tension and stress.
“Memorial is a very demanding golf course. (The RBC Canadian Open) wasn’t so demanding, but when you get yourself in contention and you play a weekend like that, then that takes quite a lot out of you,” McIlroy said. “And then you follow that up with a U.S. Open. So I think it’s a combination of everything. Mentally I’m totally fine, but I’m, you know, it will be nice to sort of rest up this afternoon and get another good night’s sleep and get ready to play tomorrow. But four weeks in a row is pretty rare for me these days. I haven’t played four in a row in a while and you start to remember why.”
The most significant stress the 6,852-yard TPC River Highlands course will likely apply to McIlroy this week is the feeling that he will need to make a lot of birdies. However, with Justin Thomas withdrawing Wednesday to rest his back and Brooks Koepka withdrawing on Tuesday amid reports that he is joining the LIV Golf Series, he has two fewer top players to worry about.
Asked if he was surprised to learn Koepka has chosen to join the LIV Series, McIlroy, one of the PGA Tour’s strongest supporters, didn’t hold back.
“Yes, because of what he said previously. I think that’s why I’m surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another,” McIlroy said. “I don’t understand that, and I don’t know if that’s for legal reasons or if they can’t, I have no idea. But it’s pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing.”
McIlroy spoke to the media before Monahan’s press conference. Still, many of the details that the commissioner talked about had already been reported, and McIlroy sounded like he is a proponent of the changes that will come after the end of next season.
“I think having the FedEx Cup season go to a calendar year, like January to August, I think that would be a pretty good idea,” McIlroy said. “It gives guys the opportunity to play if they want to play in the fall or if they don’t want to play in the fall they don’t have to, they’re not forced to, it’s not going to make a difference in any way.”
McIlroy also acknowledged that keeping everyone happy, the stars and the rank-and-file players, is going to be hard. Different people have different needs and priorities.
But for McIlroy, the priority is getting rested and holding his game together for one more week.