Rory McIlroy Seeks a Sharper Swing and a Clearer Mind At PGA Championship

At a forum like the P.G.A. Championship, those travails separate the elite from the crowd of also-rans that will be thick since the field includes 156 players. McIlroy, who noted that the precise timing of a swing can be the difference between a ball rocketing 20 yards to the left or 20 yards to the right, has hardly dawdled on his pursuit of a fix. A four-time major tournament winner, McIlroy spent last week with his coach in Florida, eschewing the FaceTime analyses that undergird plenty of modern professional careers.

McIlroy is finessing, not overhauling, insistent that there is “nothing drastic that I need to change.” Perhaps he is right, because golf delights and betrays with only so much warning: Jon Rahm’s March included a tie for 39th, a withdrawal from a tournament and then a tie for 31st. Then came April and a Masters green jacket.

“It’s ups and downs,” Rahm said on Tuesday as he broadly contemplated the challenge of sustaining success in sports, especially one as fickle as golf.

“Even Tiger had downs,” he said later, referring to Tiger Woods, the 15-time major tournament winner. “Maybe his downs were shorter, maybe his downs were different in his mind, but everybody had them. It is part of sports. I’m hoping — I guess as a player you’ve got to hope that your low is not as low as others’.”

McIlroy has not missed two major cuts in a calendar year since 2016, and he has not missed consecutive major cuts since 2010. His recipe this week to avoid a return to that dark era, beyond an adjusted swing and a clearer mind, will rely on discipline and patience and detours around the course’s 78 bunkers.

He is sure, more humbly this time, that he is close to a breakthrough.

“If I can execute the way that I feel like I can, then I still believe that I’m one of the best players in the world and I can produce good golf to have a chance of winning this week,” he said.

But he is past, he suggested, being defined by one scorecard or another, past the need for the ferocious mind-set that propelled him to his last P.G.A. Championship victory, in 2014.

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