Despite winning this season's FedEx Cup, 2016 was seen as somewhat of a year under the radar by Rory McIlroy’s lofty expectations.
Winning the $10m bonus that comes with becoming FedEx Cup champion AND claiming the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open AND the Deutsche Bank Championship would normally represent the year of a lifetime for about 99% of professional golfers. But not for Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy defines his career by winning Major Championships. 2015 and 2016 have yielded none of those for the Irishman - and that hurt. 2017 is another opportunity to add to his four Major past titles, with the Northern Irishman currently 9/1 to win the 2017 Open according to the bet365 golf betting.
After Nike announced they were pulling the plug on producing golf clubs and balls in August to concentrate solely on their clothing and shoes range, that left staff member McIlroy needing to find a new hardware provider. Naturally, there was no shortage of suitors and McIlroy made the switch to TaylorMade Woods (although he could still use this year’s Nike irons in his bag next year) in October, just enough time to get plenty of swing practice in before the sun sets on 2016.
McIlroy’s best year to date was 2014, when he claimed two Major titles and held the World Number One ranking for 22 weeks. He went on to win a total of four tournaments that year but still critically, one of golf’s biggest prizes eluded him yet again, the Masters. McIlroy’s holy grail is to win the annual Augusta event, which he so far has a tainted relationship with.
2011 saw McIlroy hold a one shot lead as he teed up at the 10th hole on the final day. However, six dropped shots in three holes saw a remarkable collapse as he ended the tournament in tied 15th and left to lick his wounds.
He was 21 then and to a certain extent that collapse could be seen as a positive as he went on to win the US Open later that year in a season that kickstarted his career.
McIlroy has the attributes, unique talent and long drive that makes domination in 2017 a very distinct possibility. When Jordan Spieth burst onto the scene in 2015 with two major wins, he simply looked untouchable. 2016 was perhaps not quite the year he was expecting but still impressive nonetheless. But McIlroy was still there in both years, reminding everyone that he is still the main man on the world stage.
Where McIlroy edges his rivals Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson is his continued consistency. Since 2009 McIlroy has won at least one tournament a year on either the European, PGA Tour or PGA Tour of Australasia.
That eclipses all of his rivals' records and confirms his natural ability at striking a ball. Four different major winners in 2016 is testament to the fact that next season is shaping up to be wide open. If McIlroy can sort out his slight erratic play around the greens then we could see Rory repeat his 2014 season and dominate the sport once again.
"Rory McIlroy & Gerry McIlroy" (CC BY 2.0) by TourProGolfClubs