OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Rory McIlroy has been distracted lately. Now we know why.
The two-time FedExCup champion and his wife Erica are about to become parents for the first time with a baby girl due any day now. McIlroy confirmed the news, which had leaked out while he played his third round of the BMW Championship, after signing for a 3-over 73.
The 18-time PGA TOUR winner dropped from the 36-hole lead into a tie for sixth, still very much in contention at a tough Olympia Fields, but now three shots back of the lead. Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama are the only two players under par at one under. They share a two-shot buffer at the top.
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“From the get-go my mind has been wandering the last few weeks, and now you guys sort of know the reason why,” McIlroy said. “We’re about to be parents very soon, so we’re obviously super excited.”
“We’ve been sharing the news with friends and family, obviously, but I didn’t think it was something that I really particularly needed to share out here. It’s a private matter, but we’re really excited and can’t wait for her to get here.”
The 31-year-old also confirmed that his charge towards a sixth FedExCup Playoff win here in Chicago, or his efforts to become the first three-time and first back-to-back FedExCup champion next week in Atlanta, could end at any moment.
“I’m just waiting for a phone call. I was waiting for a phone call last week and it didn’t come, and then Harry (his caddie) has been keeping his phone in his pocket just to make sure, but nothing as of yet,” McIlroy said.
“(If the call comes) I’m out of here. Yeah, out of here. I’m going to play in many more TOUR Championships and it’s only going to be the birth of your first child once. That trumps anything else.”
The news helps partially explain McIlroy’s dip in form of late. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown he finished inside the top five of all six of his TOUR events, including winning the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions last fall.
Since returning after the break, and in the midst of the joys of a first pregnancy, McIlroy’s focus has understandably shifted a little. He has just one top 25 finish – a T11 at the Travelers Championship – in his seven starts. McIlroy was quick to point out the happy news is not solely to blame for the lack of results.
“Not so much the first few weeks, but the last couple of weeks, when you’re going out to play and maybe not knowing whether you’re going to finish the round or not, that’s a little tough,” he explained when asked how distracting it has been during his golf.
“It’s definitely not an excuse. I just haven’t played well enough. But again, I keep talking about perspective. If you do play bad, I’ve got some awesome stuff coming up on the horizon, which is really cool, and it makes the bad days a lot easier to handle.”
McIlroy’s play on Saturday could be described more as unlucky then bad. While he was scrappy at times he fought hard in tough, firm and fast conditions and saw a number of crucial putts lip out or burn edges. While a putter change between the first and second round worked well, on Saturday it was different.
Having started with a TaylorMade TP Soto, McIlroy has gone back to his TaylorMade Spider X the last two days. In round one he ranked 45th of 69 players in Strokes Gained: Putting (-0.532) but on Friday he was 21st (+0.506). The third round saw him need 35 putts and he was ranked 63rd on the greens (-1.680).
“I played okay. I probably didn’t drive it as well as I did the first couple of days, which put me out of position. And then from there, it’s so tough to get it close. I had nine birdies through the first two days and only had two birdies today,” McIlroy said.
“A lot good putts that caught edges, dived across the front of the hole or maybe a touch firm and caught the top side. I had a couple tentative ones on the front nine, but once I got the speed down a little bit more I felt like I actually putted okay, even though not much dropped.”
Despite the troubles, McIlroy feels he can still make up the deficit on what shapes to be another tough round on Sunday.
“Felt like I hung in there… it was just a shame to bogey the last. It would have been nice to go into tomorrow one closer to the lead, but I think I’m still right in the thick of things. If I can get off to a decent start tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be right there,” he said.
Provided that is that the call doesn’t come.
Source: PGA tour