Is Rory McIlroy really a bad 'closer'? A look at the figures as world number one defends win rate after disappointing finish at Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Rory McIlroy was questioned about win-rate again at Bay Hill but what do the figures say?

Rory McIlroy was questioned about win-rate again at Bay Hill but what do the figures say?

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Rory McIlroy was questioned about win-rate again at Bay Hill but what do the figures say?

Another week, another top five, another whisper that Rory McIlroy is not a 'closer' of tournaments.

The world number one was just two behind leader, and eventual winner, Tyrrell Hatton going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and briefly shared the lead after a birdie at the fourth.

Ultimately, he carded a disappointing four over par round of 76 to tie for fifth place, four shots behind Hatton.

It's the seventh tournament in a row in which McIlroy has finished within that top five, 'only' winning once. That came back at the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions event at the start of November.

His five events since have yield five finishes between joint third and joint fifth.

Why not any victories? So they begin to ask.

"It seems like people expect you to win every week because you're number one in the world," observed a journalist at McIlroy's post-tournament press conference at Bay Hill.

"I'm doing what I expect myself to do every week, which is giving myself a chance," was his reply.

McIlroy would go on to point to his PGA Tour win rate of 10.34% (taking into account standard PGA Tour events, WGC tournaments and major championships). In his 174 career starts, McIlroy has landed 18 trophies.

"I think that's pretty high for anyone not being Tiger Woods," the Holywood man assessed.

It turns out he's right.

Woods' 22.71% (82 wins from 361 starts) is the unattainable benchmark for mere mortals.

Outside that winning machine, McIlroy's is a conversion rate unbothered by his competitors.

His closest rival is world number four Justin Thomas, who picks up the trophy 8.27% of the time he tees it up on the PGA Tour (12 wins in 145 starts).

The rest of McIlroy's challengers at the top of the world rankings compare even more unfavourably; number two Jon Rahm just 3.75%, third-placed Brooks Koepka at 5.38% and number five Dustin Thomas coming in at 7.58%.

Even the great Phil Mickelson has a win rate of 7.58% with 44 successes from 622 events.

So why the negative perception of his ability to get over the line?

"I give myself a chance most weeks and more weeks than not it's not going to happen. That's just the way golf is," McIlroy continued when pondering the 'expectations' placed on him.

In fact, he gives himself more chances, far more consistently than anybody else.

McIlroy finishes in the top 10 exactly 50% of the time he tees it up. That, again, dwarfs his rivals (bar Tiger), with world number two Rahm coming closest at 45%.

It's precisely because McIlroy is the 'best of the rest' that fans continue to expect him to trump the field in every aspect.

The fact that he closes out 20.69% of the time he makes it to the top 10 isn't good enough for supporters.

In terms of his current rivals though, that's beaten only by Tiger at a startling 41.21% and by Justin Thomas at 24.49%. Phil Mickelson also boasts a better record at 22.57% although that's based more on historic successes, given he has won only twice since 2013.

The rest? Well they still can't match McIlroy.

As he rightly points out, he's going to be frustrated more often than he comes out on top. But in terms of his closing ability, it's still up there with the very best in the world.

Bar Tiger. Maybe that's the point. McIlroy isn't, and never will be, in the same league as the Big Cat. And neither will anybody else.

Perhaps, then, it's those unrealistic expectations that need to change rather than McIlroy's ability to 'close'.

"I've had chances and I wish I had converted one of them over the last few weeks, but I'm still in good form," he continued on Sunday. "I'm playing some good golf. And hopefully if I just keep putting myself in those positions, it's only a matter of time.

"I just have to keep telling myself the game's there.

"I think if I am going to keep getting myself into contention like I am, I just need to stop making those big numbers (such as the two double bogeys he carded on Sunday). I'll just keep knocking on the door."

McIlroy has a good chance of doing just that once again this week, when he defends his title at The Players' Championship. The 30-year-old will tee it up in the first two rounds alongside world numbers two and three Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka.

And providing he can forge his way into the top 10, there's a 20.69% chance he'll close out the win - more likely than almost anyone else.

- Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell will hope for a good finish at Sawgrass in a bid to return to the top 50 in the world after dropping to 51st despite a T33rd place finish in Florida.

McDowell must hit that mark again in the world ranking update issued on March 30 in order to gain a spot at the Masters.

Belfast Telegraph