Rory McIlroy’s quest for more Major Championship glory: Can he find win number five in 2022?

The Northern Irishman has won four Majors and desperately want a fifth, ideally the Masters which would complete a career Grand Slam.

The life of Rory McIlroy is rarely straightforward and there were two typical examples late in 2021.

The first related to his coaching team. Midway through the year, he started working with Englishman Pete Cowen and, while he remained in contact with his lifelong instructor Michael Bannon, it was taken as a significant step away from the past.

Then, in the Fall, news broke that McIlroy had returned to Bannon full-time. Or had he?

Worldwide Golf soon quoted Cowen saying: "Gossip is the easiest story to write. It always has been. But the truth is, Rory and I are still working together. We have just changed the structure of how we do things."

Then there was the riddle of his form. He claimed the CJ Cup in imperious fashion on the PGA Tour and seemed set to add the European Tour's DP World Tour Championship, only to hit the skids on the back nine Sunday.

The critics believed it was typical of a golfer who they perceive doesn't care enough yet the fact he ripped his own shirt in frustration rather belies that notion.

It only adds to the puzzle of when (and potentially if) he wins his next Major Championship.

It is now over seven years since he won the last of his current tally of four Majors and it will be closing in on eight years when the quest resumes next April.

The bad news is that golfers tend to win their Majors in sweet spots and, while many add a final hurrah, few manage to add a second rush of success.

The good news is that very few golfers achieved as much as McIlroy did at such a young age. So, he has time on his side - not a huge amount, he'll turn 33 next May - but enough.

Despite a rough 2021 he's emerged as a two-time winner. Can he kick on next year and add triumphs that will define his career rather than just add lines to the CV?

Let's take a look at his chances.

McIlroy at the Masters

The missing piece in the puzzle. Like any golfer, he'd take any Major win, but he'd really like this one to complete the career Grand Slam.

At first glance his record there is good with 10 top 25s in 13 starts - and six of his last eight appearances have reaped top 10s.

But there are hurdles to clear.

The first is the pressure: the pressure to complete that career Grand Slam, the pressure to end the Major drought, the fact that the Masters comes first in the year so has most chatter (he'll always be asked questions about the Green Jacket gap in his wardrobe).

Then there are the distinct course and event pressures: the memories of leading heading into the back nine in 2011 and blowing it, the fact he played in the last group in the 2018 final round and didn't apply pressure, the irritation that he has stymied himself in the last three editions with opening laps of 73-75-76.

He said of the course: "One of the great things about it is that you can't help but be creative and see things, and that's one of the really fun things about it."

And of all those recent top 10s he added: "It takes a while to get comfortable on this golf course and the surroundings. But I have, I've got that comfort level now and it took maybe five or six years to get to that point.

"Getting to know the members, getting to know the staff at the club, all of that goes into just being more comfortable.

"And I know I've played well enough and I've shot enough good scores around here over the years that, you know, if I can put my best effort forward, I'm going to have a good chance to do well here."

McIlroy in the PGA Championship

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.

McIlroy in the US Open

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.

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.

McIlroy at the Open

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 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."

READ MORE: Snakes and ladders: AVIV Dubai Championship is the last regular European Tour event of 2021 season

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