He is barely out of swaddling clothes, compared to most top professionals, but the ebb and flow of Rory McIlroy’s career can already be tracked with some degree of predictability.
That is not the same as consistency.
At the British Open, two weeks ago, as McIlroy was winning his third major championship by the age of 25, former world No 1 Tiger Woods characterised the Northern Irishman as a streaky player, which some interpreted as a slap.
Criticism or otherwise, it hardly detracts from the accuracy of the observation.
When McIlroy is at high tide, nobody can compete. At low ebb, he is just as likely to miss a month of cuts in succession. Like his name on the claret jug, these facts are etched on his career flow chart.
“Rory’s a streaky player, but if he can find that consistency level over the next few years, he’s going to win a boatload of these majors,” the swing coach David Leadbetter told the BBC.
If not, his trajectory will mostly relate to good timing.
“When he gets it going, he gets it going,” Woods said. “When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad.
“It’s one or the other.
“He has his hot weeks and he has his weeks where he’s off. And that’s just the nature of how he plays the game. It’s no right way nor wrong way.”
Now would be a great time to follow the current compass. Starting on Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy intends to play six of the next seven weeks on the PGA Tour against the best players in golf and with US$51 million (Dh187m) on the table.
The deepest part of the golf season is at hand.
Next week’s PGA Championship has secured commitments from every player in the world top 100, which will represent a first, assuming nobody withdraws.
Two weeks later, the lucrative FedEx Cup series begins, featuring four consecutive purses of US$8 million. Moreover, McIlroy can supplant world No 1 Adam Scott with a win this week, if the Australian finishes outside the top five.
Continuity is the last piece to his curious puzzle, really.
Until then, grab a seat on the McIlroller-coaster.
“I’m not afraid of my inconsistencies,” he said this week. “It’s something that I actually quite welcome, and I know that my good is very good and my bad can sometimes be very bad.
“At the end of the day, it all levels out. I’ll have my good weeks, and I’ll have my bad weeks. But definitely, if you said there’s one thing I’d like to get better at, it would just be a bit more consistency in there. Hopefully, I’m on the right path to do that.”
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