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BRADENTON, Fla. – Rory McIlroy wasn’t all that surprised that his PGA Tour-leading consecutive cuts made streak came to an end last week at the Genesis Invitational.
“This is going to sound really weird,” he said Wednesday, “that I worked so hard the week before Riviera in that week off, but I felt so unprepared to play.”
It’s the same technical problem that has plagued McIlroy for the past few weeks: The club gets too far behind him on the way back and across the line at the top, then, instead of having the club back in front of him on the downswing, he’s too steep. That results in pulls and spinny cuts, which aren’t McIlroy’s typical mistakes.
“It’s just a very different pattern than what I’m used to,” he said, “so I’m always fighting it and I’m trying to see shots that are going against my natural way of playing. So, sort of stuck between that at the minute.”
Despite posting three consecutive finishes inside the top 20 to start the new year, including a 54-hole lead at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, McIlroy pounded balls for several hours each day in the week leading up to the Genesis.
“But I didn’t play golf,” he said. “Didn’t chip. Didn’t putt. Didn’t do any of the things you need to do to shoot scores.
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“So, even though I worked hard and worked on some stuff, I feel like it’s sort of like clockwork – I have these weeks where I want to work on some things and fix some things and I try to cram everything into the space of a week, when it’s probably something that should take two or three months to iron out. So I went to Riviera after feeling like I worked hard, but was completely unprepared because I had sort of neglected all other aspects of the game.”
His head spinning with swing thoughts, McIlroy found himself spending five to 10 seconds longer over the ball than normal. “You can’t play golf like that,” he said. Not surprisingly, he shot rounds of 73-76 on a very demanding track and missed the cut – his first in his past 26 Tour starts, dating to the 2019 Open Championship.
Typically, that isn’t much cause for concern. In the first event following his last five missed cuts, McIlroy has two wins in addition to finishes of second, fourth and 12th.
Even in a no-cut tournament here at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession, McIlroy isn’t sure he’ll be able to produce that type of performance this week.
“I need to play with more freedom and I need to be able to swing away,” he said. “It’s sort of like: Do the work on the range and just trust that the more work you do, the more that it’s just going to naturally find its way in there.”