Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Rory McIlroy hopes to be back in fast lane

Nitty gritty: Rory McIlroy is battling to keep his season alive

Rory McIlroy is determined that the BMW Championship, which starts today at Conway Farms Golf Club in Illinois, will propel him to the $10million Tour Championship in Atlanta next week.

"I have to be aggressive," he said.

McIlroy wasn't gripping a golf club when he said it. He was behind the wheel of an electric BMW i3 in a vacant parking lot at an amusement park north of Chicago, racing against the clock in a charity event.

Dust kicked up, tires screeched around the turns. Cones went flying.

"I lost track of how many I hit," McIlroy said with a laugh when he got out of the car.

It wasn't much different from how his golf has gone this year.

It is the third FedEx Cup playoff event and perhaps the last for McIlroy – and that's surprising for a player who started the year at No. 1 in the world.

He is No. 41 in the FedEx Cup standings and figures he needs to finish in the top seven against a 70-man field to be among the 30 players who advance to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10million prize.

That doesn't sound so hard – except it would be his best finish in five months

McIlroy isn't about to give up on his year, though.

His issues stem from the short game, though there have been plenty of distractions off the golf course that are subject to speculation – swapping his entire set of golf equipment by signing a multi-million pound endorsement contract with Nike, and then deciding to leave management companies for the second time in 18 months.

That situation still has not been resolved, and it must be awkward to have two managers around him at the same time.

There are signs McIlroy is getting closer.

He has been held back in the last two tournaments by making eight double bogeys, which have kept him from at least having a sniff of contention going into the final day.

What really troubles him, though, is losing shots around the green.

McIlroy went from missing fairways by inches to missing them by a mile earlier in the year.

"I'm driving the ball better. I'm hitting a few more greens. That isn't the issue," he said.

"I'm just not getting up-and-down as much as I used to. All I did for the last four days was practise those things."

Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell is also in the field and, like McIlroy, will be hoping to build his season towards a climax and finish with a flourish.

Meanwhile, Dubliner Padraig Harrington will try to find the "intensity" which has been missing from his game as he competes in the KLM Open for the first time in more than a decade.

Harrington has recorded just two top-10 finishes on the European Tour this season and failed to finish in the top 125 on the US Tour to qualify for the lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs.

The three-time major winner has therefore turned his attention back to Europe and after finishing 41st in Switzerland last week, where he failed to build on a second-round 65, the 42-year-old is hoping to challenge for a first victory on a major worldwide tour since his 2008 US PGA triumph.

"Obviously I missed out on the FedEx Cup events and at this time of the year you are looking to play golf and try to find some good form," Harrington said.

"Everyone will feel comfortable on this course but certainly it will play into my strengths.

"There's been nothing wrong with my game all year expect when I go on the course.

"I play quite well Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and I don't seem to have the intensity on the tournament days. It's there, it's just figuring how to get it out of me," he added.

"That's part of the game at the moment, trying to figure out the right attitude and the right level of intensity to get the best out of my game."

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