TOP 30 PLAYERS TO WATCH
No. 4 Rory McIlroy
After a winless 2017, expect him to come back in grand style in 2018
December 27, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy | Sunday School
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
To say that last season was “a transitional year” for the former No. 1 would be cutting it a bit short. The four-time major winner McIlroy, 28, switched out his equipment in the wake of Nike’s decision to get out of the hard-goods business (more on that shortly); married former PGA of America employee Erica Stoll; changed caddies, parting with J.P. Fitzgerald in order to preserve their friendship; and bought Ernie Els’s old house at the Bear’s Club.
Otherwise, it was pretty much business as usual.
Oh, and McIlroy was injured, a lingering back/rib ailment that came and went all season. More than anything else, that explains how, just one year after winning the FedExCup, McIlroy had six top-10 finishes but failed to add to his total of 13 career PGA TOUR victories.
The trouble started early.
McIlroy’s back was taped and he was running on anti-inflammatories as he lost a playoff to Graeme Storm at the BMW South Africa Open in January. A scan showed a stress-fracture in one of his ribs, which apparently was the result of testing out too much new equipment in the off-season, and he withdrew from the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Another near-miss at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, where a three-putt bogey on 18 left him with a T4 finish, seemed to suggest he was back to his old self, but that was misleading. Although he had two more T4s, including at The Open at Royal Birkdale, McIlroy wasn’t 100 percent all season, finishing 58th in the FedExCup after making just 14 starts.
Now 10th in the world, he will try to get off to a fast start in 2018 with a robust early-season schedule. He’ll start his TOUR season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and at one point play five out of six weeks. He’s got some catching up to do.
BY THE NUMBERS
How Rory McIlroy ranked in Strokes Gained statistics during his last full season on the PGA TOUR.
Current 2017-18 position: N/A
Playoff appearances: 7
TOUR Championship appearances: 4
Best result: Won (2016)
INSIGHTS FROM THE INSIDERS
PGATOUR.COM’s Insiders offer their expert views on what to expect from Rory McIlroy in 2018.
TOUR INSIDER by Ben Everill
One of the most fascinating storylines of the season shapes to be how Rory responds from a so-so 2017. The last time he was winless on the PGA TOUR in 2013, he responded with a three-win season, including two majors. Injury was a legitimate excuse for much of the year, but if he’s healthy again, then the pressure will be on to push Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Co. and prove he’s far from a spent force. Pencil in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for his TOUR season debut after his customary Middle East swing.
FANTASY INSIDER by Rob Bolton
One of the salary bargains ($2.43 million) of the season will have rested and recovered from lingering soreness from a rib injury for over three months before returning to competition in January. Looking ahead, gamers love that conviction because we can grow tired of one of our charges grinding to one forgettable finish after another with persistent discomfort. He doesn't need any more motivation than to polish off the career grand slam at the Masters, but you know he'll be hungry to contend early and often in 2018. It's also a Ryder Cup year, which has proven to bring out his best as he finished inside the top three in the FedExCup in each of the last three even-numbered years.
EQUIPMENT INSIDER by Jonathan Wall
McIlroy made a surprise move to TaylorMade during the middle of the season at THE PLAYERS Championship. Complete bag overhaul saw him add TaylorMade M2 woods, including the more compact Tour 3- and 5-wood. Was the first staffer to use the P730 "Rors Proto" blade. Depending on the course setup and conditions, McIlroy will use a Tour Preferred UDI 1-iron he carries 280-plus. Rotated putters before settling on a TP Collection Juno. The No. 22 stamped on his TaylorMade TP5x golf ball is the day (4/22) he got married.
STYLE INSIDER by Greg Monteforte
Rory is one of the fittest players on TOUR, making him a perfect fit for Nike’s golfers-are-athletes approach to golf fashion. He’ll continue to be outfitted in the latest and greatest from Nike in the New Year. In October, he laced up the new Nike Lunar Control Vapor 2 shoe, which will be his go-to shoe in 2018. Look for him to receive custom colorways and personal editions of the shoe for the majors.