In many ways the 2015 golf season resembled a Grand Prix race. At the beginning Rory McIlroy sat on the pole in the Number One position, earned with the last two majors of 2014 season. He got away from the starting line indifferently, and Jordan Spieth in the Number Two car zoomed out impressively to challenge.
Just as McIlroy was set to meet the challenger, he broke a wheel and limped into the pits. By the time he was able to get back on the track Spieth had put too much distance between the two for McIlroy to catch up. And at the same time Jason Day had rocketed up to overtake McIlroy for second.
So what kind of racer will McIlroy send out to the track in 2016? Will he once again be the sport’s top gun?
Unlike other golfing injuries to backs and tendons, McIlroy’s foot injury was the kind that heals without any lingering doubts for the future. McIlroy will not have to address a golf ball wondering if this next shot is going to bring back a recurrence of the malady.
More importantly the Northern Ireland star never had to alter his swing to compensate for the foot injury. There should be no lingering doubts that he will come back playing at full strength next year, especially considering his continued dedication to the gym and new-found aversion to the soccer pitch right before a big tour.
At the rarefied heights at the top of the professional golf pyramid, the differences in talent are shaved awfully thin. More often the battle for Number One comes down to the mental game.
After an injury or losing the Number One ranking, a player is never completely certain how one’s confidence will be affected. You think you know how you will react (or at least hope) but it is still a guess until you step up to the tee and take that swing. With that said, it does seems that he is mentally ready for next year as Rory has already added more PGA Tour events to his 2016 schedule.
In recent weeks the golf world has witnessed what seemed like a valedictory speech from Tiger Woods, where the most supremely confident of all golfers admitted to being surprised at how much he had been able to win – he never expected to compile such a record.
For his part, the new Number One, Jordan Spieth, has been making noises that he thinks it might be awfully difficult to replicate what he did in 2015. As for McIlroy’s state of mind, a charging victory at the Race to Dubai to close out his season on a winning note, certainly spoke to his resolve to tidy up a forgettable 2015. Plus, his new title as Euro Tour Player of the Year certainly can’t hurt his confidence.
Has McIlroy a Really Given Up Number One?
The rankings are driven by performance statistics, but they don’t always reflect reality. After all, McIlroy has a half-decade of superlative performance in his ledger, while Spieth has one year and Day has a only a couple of months. It may be a little early to tell, but we believe you can expect McIlroy to make short order of those rankings and really make this upcoming 2016 season something to pay attention to.