By Lisa Hagen.
It has been a 12 month winless drought for Rory McIlroy until this past weekend’s triumphant return to the trophy table. He defeated hometown boy Adam Scott on the final hole of the Emirates Australian Open with a dramatic 15 foot birdie putt. But if you have followed the media over the same period of time, they have made it out like the golfer’s game was so far in the toilet he may never have come back.
In reality, he was still ranked sixth in the world and had 4 top ten finishes in his last 5 starts. Most PGA members would be thrilled with that track record. But a win is a win and Rory seems relieved to have the monkey off his back with this weekend’s victory.
"It's been a frustrating year but I've worked hard and it's been a process, trying to get back to winning golf tournaments again. It was nice to be able to do it today,” he said after Sunday’s win.
The frustrating year was not only on the course. Several distractions may have taken his mind away from his work. First off, a lawsuit with Oakley Sports has been nagging since 2012 when reportedly they told Rory’s agent that “they were out of the mix.” Rory subsequently signed with Nike, but then Oakley came back saying they were denied first right of refusal over Rory. Oakley sued but called off the hunt just last month. Meanwhile, Rory and his agent are suing each other in a separate case. At least the lion’s share of that court weight is off his shoulders.
The change to Nike also meant a much ballyhooed change of equipment. Speculation blossomed on how that coincided with the decline in his game. The changeover was quickly followed by an uncharacteristic walk off the course at the Honda Open where he at first blamed his mental state on his terrible play, then recanted and said a wisdom tooth was bothering him. It only added fuel to the fire when he months later said he felt “brain dead” on the course.
The first person he phoned after his win this weekend was Caroline Wozniaki, his girlfriend and tennis sensation. That relationship seems to be on the rails for the young Irishman as rumors of love on the rocks have swarmed around for months.
The Australian Open was won by McIlroy not lost by Scott. He shot a searing final 66 to close a 4 shot deficit at the beginning of the day including an eagle on the seventh and a birdie on the eighth. That would be enough to put anyone in a better mental state.
“The pleasing thing about my golf, even all year, is any time I’ve got into contention and had a chance to win a tournament, I’ve always played well. I’ve always played the best golf of the week. That’s pleasing, to play your best golf when you’re under pressure. You couldn’t ask for any more than that.” McIlroy said.