Rory McIlroy’s long-term Major drought

Rory McIlroy was on the cusp of cementing himself as one of the world's greatest-ever golfers. However, his failure to claim a Major Championship recently has many asking if he's lost his way.

When Rory McIlroy won his third and fourth Major championships seven years ago the future looked golden.

He'd opened his account in golf's most precious events three years earlier with victory in the US Open and had added a dominant win at the PGA Championship in 2012.

When he completed back-to-back triumphs in the British Open and PGA Championship in 2014 little seemed to stand in his way.

A first Green Jacket and a career Grand Slam appeared to be a formality.

But life is rarely quite so straightforward and, in reality, those two quests have proved problematic.

He's not only struggled to complete the set with victory at Augusta, he's failed to add to his Major Championship tally anywhere.

If that's the bad news, the good news is that two weeks ago he brought his poor recent form to an abrupt end with victory in the Wells Fargo Championship and he now heads to Kiawah Island, scene of his 2012 triumph in the PGA Championship.

He's best price 11/1 with Bet365 to win this year's renewal of that event.

Here's Planet Sport's year-by-year reminder of McIlroy's increasingly frustrating experiences in the tournaments which define any world class golfer's career.

2015

The season began in fine fashion with victory in the Dubai Desert Classic, WGC World Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship.

But a slow start at Augusta National - he headed into the weekend 12 shots off the lead - stymied his hopes of Masters glory despite a fast finish for fourth.

It also started a trend for the year of putting himself behind the eight-ball early in the week.

He logged top 20s in the US Open and the PGA Championship, but he was outside the top 50 after round one at the former and nine swings back at halfway in the latter.

And he never even made it to the British Open.

Early in July he joined in a game of five-a-side football with friends back home in Northern Ireland, turned over on his ankle, and ruptured a ligament in his ankle.

2016 to 2018

A three-year period that was bizarrely repetitive.

In each of these three years he kicked off with a top ten at the Masters. Moreover, he found himself in contention every time.

In 2016 he was second at halfway, just one swing back of the lead before a Saturday 77 saw him move in the wrong direction on his way to tied tenth.

A year later he was never quite out of the reckoning, always T13th or better, but only on the final day, with a 69 for tied seventh, did he gain much on the field.

In 2018 a Saturday 65 left him in prime position, playing the final round in the last group out with the leader Patrick Reed.

But he failed to take advantage of early opportunities and eventually fell backwards with a 74 for tied fifth.

What of the US Open?

Nothing but misery.

He shot 77 in round one at Oakmont in 2016, opened with a 78 at Erin Hills in 2017 and with an 80 at Shinnecock Hills in 2018.

Every single time he improved in round two, but never sufficiently to make the cut.

It was a similar story in what was then the final Major of the year, the PGA Championship.

He missed the weekend in 2016 at Baltusrol. Was a never-better-all-week T22nd at Quail Hollow (a course he has twice won at on the PGA Tour). And a flat T50th at Bellerive in 2018.

Fortunately the British Open provided some relief from this summer tale of Major gloom.

Even so, in 2016 and 2017, he was back to his old trick of making sticky starts.

The 2016 championship saw him outside the top 20 after Thursday's play and, although he rose up the leaderboard for the rest of the week, with every round he was more strokes in arrears of the eventual winner Henrik Stenson.

He ended the tournament tied fifth and 16 strokes back.

In 2017 at Royal Birkdale a first round 71 had him outside the top 50 again before three sub-70 laps earned him tied fourth.

His tied second at Carnoustie was a different story.

He was within five blows of the lead all week, most often closer than that, but Francesco Molinari proved too good.

2019

A year when the Thursday problems re-emerged.

At Augusta National a 73 had him outside the top 40 and he spent the week grafting to land T21st.

At Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship a round one 72 had exactly 50 players ahead of him in the pecking order.

There was another fightback, this time for tied eighth, but it was becoming an exhausting pattern.

In the British Open it became even more wearing.

What should have been a wonderful homecoming at Royal Portrush was instead an opening day pratfall.

He hit his opening tee shot out of bounds and four-putted the 16th green in a 79.

McIlroy recovered to shoot a sensational 65 on Friday, but it left him one shot shy of the cut.

Before that he had broken his run of missed cuts at the US Open and spent the entire week inside the top ten.

However with every circuit of the course he had slipped further from the lead: three shots after round one, then four, then five, finally eight strokes behind winner Gary Woodland.

2020

McIlroy opened the 2020 season with plenty of hope.

He'd responded well to the Portrush disappointment and reeled off four top five finishes in January, February and March.

But lockdown knocked him for six.

And his T33rd at the PGA Championship came flush in a run of eight consecutive failures to land a top ten.

He returned to the higher reaches of the leaderboard late in the season, and twice in the Majors, but the long-standing win-drought continued.

A second round 76 ruined his hopes in the US Open at Winged Foot.

He started the day two shots off the lead, ended it seven back and finished the week tied eighth.

At the Masters a first round 75 had him a catastrophic T77th in the field.

The 66-67-69 that followed saw him fly through the field for a share of fifth, but it was too little, too late.

And, for the most part, it was the story of his Majors from 2015 to 2020 in microcosm.

2021

Ahead of the Masters he missed the cut at THE PLAYERS and failed to escape the group stage of the WGC Dell Match Play. At Augusta itself there was no let up in the misery - he carded 76-74 and went home early.

And, now, this week he hopes to revive his Major fortunes with a happy return to Kiawah Island.

READ MORE: Kiawah Island clues: what the top players know about next week's PGA Championship venue

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