Rory McIlroy Pinpoints Biggest Problem, Praises Scottie Scheffler

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour Bay Hill

Getty Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 10, Rory McIlroy had an outside shot to collect PGA Tour win number 25 as he was just four strokes out of the lead. 

Unfortunately for Rory, however, he failed to capitalize on the momentum he’d gained from his third-round 68 as the world No. 2 struggled to a 4-over round of 76 to finish in a tie for 21st. Meanwhile, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who entered the day tied for the lead with Shane Lowry, fired a brilliant 6-under 66 and cruised to a five-shot victory. 

Afterward, McIlroy assessed his game, explicitly pinpointing what he feels has been holding him back recently. 

“Another great week off the tee. I feel like I found a good feeling with the putting as well. I putted well the last three days. Just the iron play’s let me down. It’s been the same story the last few weeks,” McIlroy stated.

“I’m struggling with a left miss with the irons, and it’s hard because the longer clubs, the woods, feel so good, and then the irons don’t really feel that good. So I feel like I’m having to put like two different swings on the woods and the irons at the minute, which is a struggle.”

Rory also had nothing but great things to say about Scheffler.

“Anyone can pop up and win an event here or there or get on a good run, but the consistent performances that Scottie’s been putting in week in and week out every time he tees it up, it is incredible.

“Then what he’s doing this week, I mean, this is a super tough golf course, and to be 6-under today going out with the lead and just sort of lapping the field is, it’s super impressive.”

Data Backs Up Rory McIlroy’s Assessment of His Game

There’s certainly plenty of data to confirm McIlroy’s critique of his own game.

According to Data Golf, among the 58 players who made the cut at Bay Hill, Rory ranked first in strokes gained off the tee, 19th in strokes gained putting, 21st in strokes gained tee to green, and 30th in strokes gained around the green.

But when it comes to strokes gained on the approach, McIlroy ranked a dismal 55th. Even during his third-round 68, the four-time major winner ranked 22nd in the same category, relying more on the other facets of his game to keep him in contention.

With The Players Championship on the horizon at TPC Sawgrass, where great iron play is typically necessary to win, Rory, who won the tourney in 2019, has some work to do if he hopes to claim a second title at the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

McIlroy Was Also Correct in His Assessment of Scottie Scheffler

In addition to his spot-on self-critique, McIlroy was correct in assessing Scottie Scheffler’s consistency.

In six official starts in 2024, the world’s top-ranked player has finished outside the top 10 just once, that being a tie for 17th at The American Express. And of his five top-10s, he’s finished in the top five three times, obviously including his victory at Bay Hill.

As for his stats, he’s at or near the top of most major categories. Scheffler ranks first in scoring average (69.558), first in birdie average (5.48), first in total strokes gained (2.497), first in greens in regulation percentage (78.07%), second in strokes gained approach (1.198), and seventh in strokes gained off the tee (0.821).

Prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Scheffler had been struggling with the flat stick, which was the big thing keeping him from winning. But at Bay Hill, the 27-year-old ranked fifth in strokes gained putting for the entire event and first during his final-round 66.

Naturally, as the world No. 1 and the defending champion, Scheffler is a big favorite at The Players Championship and could become the first player to win golf’s unofficial “fifth major” in consecutive seasons. And given the way he putted at Bay Hill, it’s looking more and more likely.

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