Can Rory rekindle DBC magic?
In the 2012 FedEx Cup playoffs, Rory McIlroy won the BMW Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship, which begins Friday at the TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
Then a week later, he took the BMW at Crooked Stick in Indiana. McIlroy was the FedEx Cup points leader heading into the Tour Championship, but Brandt Snedeker earned the $10 million prize with a victory at East Lake.
While ultimately McIlroy didn't win the FedEx Cup, his performance in the four-tournament series and his 8-shot win at the PGA Championship prior to the playoffs personified his arrival as the new dominant force in the game ready to replace Tiger Woods as the best player in the world.
In December, the pride of Holywood, Northern Ireland, easily won the PGA Tour Player of the Year award. A month later, Nike introduced him in a lavish ceremony in Abu Dhabi as its newest ambassador.
McIlroy had obtained Tony Montana's American dream of money, power and women, and a glimpse of Woods' megastardom that reached beyond golf.
Now a year from that win at the Deutsche Bank, the 24-year-old two-time major champion is just hoping to salvage a disappointing season over the next couple of weeks.
On Thursday, McIlroy suggested that he is perhaps a "victim of his own success" and that his season hasn't been an abject failure.
"I don't think there is anything wrong," he said. "I've played pretty well at times this year. Five top-10s and I feel like my game is definitely running in a little bit of form.
"I know how well I can play and you guys know how well I can play and I want to get back to that level."
Forgive McIlroy for being young and experimental. Forgive him for switching his clubs and balls and management after the best year of his brief professional life. Forgive him for dating a tennis player with her own career ambitions. Forgive him for at times succumbing to the pressure of being No. 1.
There isn't a how-to manual on how to handle being a superstar athlete. You learn through experience.
This could be the bridge year that McIlroy needs to get a handle on his new life before he fully reaches sustained greatness.
Before Tiger began his run that commenced in 1999 with eight victories, including the PGA Championship, he made a series of important changes in his game and business affairs.
In a few short years after turning pro and winning the 1997 Masters, Tiger replaced his agent, lawyer and caddie. Tiger spent most of 1998 rebuilding his golf swing with then-coach Butch Harmon. That year, Woods had just one win on tour at the BellSouth Classic.
Tiger's fortunes have been lifted in recent years by numerous victories on courses where he's had past success. McIlroy has that opportunity this week at TPC Boston.
"When you come back to golf courses that you've played well at before, it gives you a nice, positive boost," McIlroy said. "So hopefully it's the same this week."
McIlroy has time on his side. He's only at the beginning of his career. But such a dramatic fall-off only a year after being on top of the world is not a good omen for his future that is sure to be full of the ups and downs that come with playing pro golf.
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It's a very hard game.
McIlroy admitted Thursday that he reset his goals before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August, but he wouldn't elaborate on what those goals were. They likely included a good performance at the PGA Championship, where he finished in a tie for eighth, and a strong showing in the playoffs.
At 36th in the FedEx Cup standings, McIlroy is not assured of a place in Atlanta. A failure to make it back to the Tour Championship would only amplify his mediocrity in 2013.
"All I want to do is just keep trying to improve my position," he said. "And I'd love to make a big jump this week."
Last year, McIlroy took some very giant steps to get to the top of the game. Now for the next few weeks, he can take some incremental ones to reach Atlanta and the $10 million first prize.
It's not time just yet to give up on the season.
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