Rory tries to get back on track
Dublin - Rory McIlroy, suddenly struggling with his US Open title defence looming, will try to get back on track this week at the US PGA Tour's Memorial.
Two straight missed cuts at prestigious events, the US tour's Players Championship and the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, have seen McIlroy surrender the world number one ranking.
Things got so bad at Wentworth that the 23-year-old's frustration spilled over with a tossed club.
"When you've went on a run when you've hardly finished outside the top five, and then all of a sudden two missed cuts, it's more of a shock than anything else," McIlroy said on Wednesday as he prepared to tee off on Thursday in the $6.2 million Memorial, hosted by Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village.
"Just a little bit surprising, and it's something I haven't really had to deal with in a while, and I just have to knuckle down and figure it out and get back to the way I was at the start of the year."
With the US Open, the second major championship of the year, due to tee off at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on June 14, the Memorial will give McIlroy a chance to test himself against some of the game's best.
World No 1 Luke Donald of England, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are here, along with defending champion Steve Stricker.
No matter how this week goes, McIlroy has scheduled himself to play the St. Jude Classic next week to give himself more golf before he defends the US Open title he won at Congressional last year.
"I just feel like I need more rounds," he said. "These two-day weeks aren't really that good for me."
McIlroy admitted that he was still getting used the spotlight that has accompanied his rise to the top of golf, which focuses not only on his game but also on his relationship with tennis-star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and, of course, any lapses in behavior.
"Last week I threw my 6-iron on the 12th hole, and I didn't think it was that big of a deal," McIlroy said. "And then I wake up the next morning and it's all over the papers in the UK. And I'm just like, 'Oh, my god.' It's just one of those things, and it's something I'm going to have to deal with and learn how to do."
Donald, who has held the top ranking for much of the past two years, swapping it with McIlroy in recent months, was sympathetic.
"You can't blame the kid," Donald said. "But he's obviously realised that, and it looks like he's trying to focus on practicing a little bit harder and getting back to what he does."
Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion, is more than familiar with the kind of scrutiny McIlroy is receiving.
Earlier this year, Woods ended a 17-month victory drought by capturing the Arnold Palmer Classic at Bay Hill.
Since then, however, he has struggled, missing the cut at Quail Hollow and sharing 40th at the Players Championship. He tied for 40th a the Masters, where has won four times.
On Tuesday, Woods told fans in an on-line chat that he thinks he has "plenty of time" to break Nicklaus's record of 18 major title.
Woods hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open.