Revealed: The weakness that has stopped Rory McIlroy winning a Major since 2014

The Northern Irishman was runner-up at Augusta last month but what area does he need to improve to end his frustrating eight-year drought?

When Rory McIlroy lifted the giant Wanamaker trophy after capturing the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, he stood at the very top of the golfing tree.

Victory in Kentucky gave him a fourth Major title and a second in a row following his triumph in the Open Championship at Hoylake a month earlier.

McIlroy was World No.1 by a distance. Between those Majors he'd even added another big win by capturing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Nobody, apart from Tiger Woods, did winning on that level and with such frequency. Just how far could Rory take this?

The answer, it emerged, was not as far as the vast majority predicted.

Since that heady summer, McIlroy has picked up two more WGC titles (2015 and 2019), a Players Championship (2019) and two FedEx Cups (2016 and 2019).

But his Major tally has been stuck on four, the drought now approaching eight years.

In that spell from the 2014 PGA Championship to this year's Masters where he finished runner-up, McIlroy has piled up 14 top 10s. That includes a pair of second places and five other top fives but no 'W'.

His next crack will come in the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills later this month.

Rory McIlroy 2014 Wanamaker Trophy

Rory's build-up to the Tulsa showdown starts at this week's Wells Fargo Championship where he's the defending champion.

Ahead of that event in Maryland, Planet Sport looks at how is numbers compare to eight years ago.

Rory 2014 v Rory 2022

When Rory completed his fantastic double-Major winning season in 2014, these were his stats at the end of the campaign, the best of his career to date.

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 1st

Strokes Gained: Approach - 12th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 93rd

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 1st

Strokes Gained: Putting - 41st

Driving Distance - 3rd

Driving Accuracy - 108th

So how do they compare to his current 2022 numbers?

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 4th

Strokes Gained: Approach - 95th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 8th

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 9th

Strokes Gained: Putting - 61st

Driving Distance - 2nd

Driving Accuracy - 120th

In terms of driving the ball, McIlroy remains one of the best in the business. He's very, very long but not accurate. However, it remains a big strength given his SG: Off The Tee ranking of 4th.

From being 1st in Tee To Green in 2014, he's now 9th: still impressive but what has caused the drop?

The numbers are clear. In 2014 he was ranked 12th in Approach but this season he's down in 95th, a drop of 83 spots.

Rory McIlroy

The good news is that his short game is helping atone for it. McIlroy was only 93rd Around The Green in 2014 but he's up 85 places on that to 8th in 2022. It's an area he's sharpened up considerably although perhaps he just gets more practice due to missing more greens!

As for the putter, it's dipped a little (41st to 61st) although he's still gaining strokes against over two-thirds of his rivals.

The positive for McIlroy is that at Augusta this year he was 13th for SG: Approach, that improved iron play making him 1st for the week in SG: Tee To Green.

Looking back to the previous two Majors on American soil and he was ranked 17th for Approach in the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines and 19th in Approach in the 2021 PGA at Kiawah Island.

Iron play isn't really the problem. So what is stopping him winning more Majors?

The answer is his putting.

Despite finishing second, Rory lost strokes to the field in this year's Masters while he's recorded negative SG: Putting figures in two of the last three US Opens and five of the last seven PGA Championships.

It's going unreported a little as the focus falls on his approach play but, quite simply, he's just not holing enough putts.

However, there is some hope.

Rory McIlroy putts at St Andrews

There are no Strokes Gained figures available for the Open Championship but, using the basic stats, Rory's putting numbers are actually pretty decent when returning to the links.

The evidence: he's ranked in the top 20 for Putting Average in four of his last six Opens.

Perhaps this all bodes well for St Andrews where he ranked 8th for Putting Average the last time he played an Open there in 2010.

So how about Rory's chances in the remaining Majors of 2022?

Here, we examine his hopes of glory at this year's venues - Southern Hills, The Country Club in Brookline and St Andrews.

PGA Championship - Southern Hills

It's a little difficult to take too much from the following point, given that this event moves from course to course, but there is something of a split in McIlroy's performances in the year's second Major.

In his first six starts he landed two wins, two third places and tied eighth.

In his last seven? Just one top 10 and that was tied eighth.

The 2022 edition will head to Southern Hills in Oklahoma and it might not suit. It's a windy state - Viktor Hovland lives there and frequently cites the blustery conditions - and McIlroy is famously not at his best when the wind gets up.

US Open - The Country Club in Brookline

The good news? He's a former winner of the event and has bounced back from missing three cuts in a row (2016-2018) to land three top 10s on the bounce (2019-2021).

The bad news? That win - and it was dominant - came in unusual US Open conditions with soft fairways and soft greens which are perfect for McIlroy's game.

Rory drives

Talking of how he won in 2011 and has struggled since he said: "Probably just a little less going on in my head (back then). A little less cynical too. Sometimes you can sort of get into that mindset coming into US Opens.

"(In contrast), first time I laid my eyes on Congressional, I thought I could see myself shooting scores out here. It's just a matter of getting into a little more of a positive mindset going into the tournament."

The 2022 host is The Country Club in Brookline which, if he's on his game, definitely looks a better fit than Southern Hills, but will it be soft? He might need the weather to help out.

The Open Championship - St Andrews

Excellent news: the 150th Open will be hosted by The Old Course in St Andrews.

McIlroy is not a winner at the course, but he loves it. He's been the runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship three times and has also been third and eighth there.

And at the 2010 Open he finished third despite carding an 80 in the second round.

That's also a problem, of course, because that day he struggled in the wind and the memory of it hurts. He then didn't return for the 2015 Open because he'd injured himself in a five-a-side football match.

He said of the championship at Royal St George's: "Over the last few years, my best performances in Majors have been at this event.

"It's been good. I've just become more and more comfortable with this style of golf, and I think more than anything else, there's a lot more variables in the Open Championship and on links courses. Once you learn that you can't control those variables, then you just have to go out and accept whatever is given to you.

"I think as I've gotten a little more experience and matured, I've been able to play this championship a little bit better."

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