Rory McIlroy: Why It’s Been Hard for Him to Win The Memorial

Rory McIlroy, 2023 Memorial Tournament,(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, 2023 Memorial Tournament,(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Rory McIlroy has already won 23 PGA Tour events, four majors, three FedEx Cups, and countless awards in his golf career. But he’s never won The Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’ event. He thinks it’s the shape of the fairways that stymies him.

"“If you look at the recent winners, maybe apart from Jon (Rahm), they have all been sort of like medium-length hitters,” McIlroy said in a pre-tournament interview. “I only hit four drivers on this golf course. Four or five. So, it takes the driver out of my hand a lot.”"

The driver is typically his best weapon, although lately, he has struggled with that club a little bit.

Rory McIlroy has had a hard time finding a replacement for his previous driver that suffered the fate of many of today’s clubs, becoming too springy on the face through constant use. It had to be taken out of play before it became non-conforming ( aka Illegal). In addition, he shortened his driver shaft a half inch, and that changes timing.

So, while McIlroy had another of his banner years in 2022, including winning his third FedEx Cup, he has not won on the PGA Tour since the CJ Cup last fall.  He did have a victory on the DP World Tour last January, snagging the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. It’s just that he hasn’t gotten across the line since then, which is unusual for someone of his caliber.

"“The biggest weapon in my bag isn’t quite the weapon that it is at some other golf courses.”  – –  Rory McIlroy on his lack of success at Muirfield Village."

Rory McIlroy suggested that one reason for his lack of success at Muirfield Village may be that the fairways narrow at 320 to 340 yards, and that’s where his typical drive would finish. The design style of the course makes it harder for him to find the short grass off the tee if he uses driver. So, he has to hit 3-wood or a long iron instead.

“The biggest weapon in my bag isn’t quite the weapon that it is at some other golf courses,” he admitted about the adjustment.

What it means is that he’s giving up what would ordinarily be a big advantage in yardage for him. His 3-wood or long iron may finish where another guy’s drive does.  He loses yards to the field.

In addition, his driver gave him some fits recently at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship, and that may or may not be completely ironed out.

"“I think just golf swing getting a little off, fighting the face a little bit. Fearful of the misses,” he explained. “I was so fearful of a left at Oak Hill I felt myself subconsciously just starting to aim further and further right as the week went on.”"

“The rights” is a problem he said he also had in 2021, but it’s caused because of his fear of “the lefts.” “The lefts” is a common disease in golfers, a condition that can send them off the tour if they can’t cure it. Ben Hogan had a horrible case of “the lefts” for many years until he figured out how to hit a controlled fade, which is what his book Five Lessons addresses.

Regardless, the good news for Rory McIlroy is that he does like the course.

"“I’ve loved this tournament since the first time that I played it,” he said.  “I would love to be able to put my name on the trophy and walk up that hill and get that handshake from Jack. That would be pretty nice to do.”"

After his victory in Dubai, McIlroy focused on the Masters which ended up being a disappointment for him.  Then there are the distractions that come with having a family, not that he would trade it for anything.  Face it. No PGA Tour player has what most people would call a normal existence.

"“I would love to sit here and say that I’m just a golfer and that’s all I focus on, but that’s not reality,” he said.  “It’s making sure that I spend enough time on my golf and on my career that I feel like I’m ready to play tournaments like this. But then at the same time that I spend enough time with my wife and my daughter so they actually know who I am.”"

People in the media center laughed when he said it, but only because many of them travel a lot and work away from home, too.  It’s a constant duel between what needs to be done and what people want to do. The heart gets tugged one way and then the other.

One thing that does have McIlroy flummoxed is his poor performance on the par fives at Muirfield Village. There are four of them on the par 72 course.

“I guess, sort of surprised me with the four par-5s and sort of the way the golf course sets up that I haven’t at least had a real chance to win here,” he added.

For a player with his length, at least some of those should be birdie opportunities every day. But again, he loses his length advantage because of the crimped fairways.

Next. Masters Winner Takes Firm Ryder Cup Stance. dark

This week, it will, no doubt, come down to whether Rory McIlroy can hit it as close with his irons as others can with perhaps a slightly longer iron. He’s giving up 20 or 30 yards to the competition on every par four or par five tee shot where the fairways are pinched.

So that means he’ll have to beat the field from the second shot to the hole instead of demoralizing the competition on the drives. It’s a different way to get it done, but certainly not impossible for someone as good as McIlroy.