If there’s one thing the modern world does particularly well, it’s hysterical knee-jerk reaction. Hear that crack in the background? Why, it’s the sound of another tibiofemoral joint flexing and jolting itself into a frenzy.

In these loud, opinionated times, which often sparks a cacophony of claptrap and codswallop that’s broadly equivalent to listening to a fog horn having a disagreement with an angle grinder, there’s never much level-headed middle ground.

Take affairs surrounding Rory McIlroy, for instance. It only seems five minutes ago that all and sundry were saying he should be doing this, he shouldn’t be doing that and he certainly needs to get rid of a bit of the other as he searched for a first win in 18 months.

After ending that barren spell with glory in the Wells Fargo Championship, the Northern Irishman, once again, is back to being the greatest thing since somebody took a knife through a loaf. It was the perfect riposte to the widespread and somewhat exaggerated depictions of a golfer in crisis.

His much-needed victory at his happy hunting ground of Quail Hollow – it was his third win at the course where he earned his first PGA Tour title 11 years ago – was the kind of welcome shot in the arm that usually comes in a blue envelope from the NHS.

A week ago, he was being asked why he hadn’t won since November 2019 and why he had slithered to No 15 in the world, his lowest position on the global rankings since 2009. Now he’s being tipped to win the US PGA Championship next week at Kiawah Island, the scene of his imperious, eight-shot triumph in 2012.

When it comes to McIlroy, ferociously fickle observers tend to switch from gushing adoration to withering criticism, and vice versa, like some hyperactive bairn tugging on a pull-cord bathroom light. If he falls short in the US PGA, we’ll no doubt be back to square one. ‘Twas ever thus. Predictions in this unpredictable old game tend to be a fool’s errand but the build up to the second men’s major of the season has certainly been dunted up a few notches. Forget all this closed shop nonsense of a Super Golf League. Give me McIlroy paired in the final group with world No 249 Keith Mitchell at Quail Hollow any day.

The chanting of McIlroy’s name by the raucous spectators, meanwhile, underlined his magnetism. Away from Tiger Woods, not many players shake, rattle and roll the senses quite like McIlroy in his pomp. “I need this,” he said of the energy of the galleries. Many sportsmen and women, in both individual and team pursuits, will no doubt vouch for that statement too. In these pandemic-stricken times, the paying public have been sorely missed.

McIlroy’s game is far from perfect – in this inherently imperfect pursuit whose is? – and the hairy finale on the last hole when he had to take a penalty drop was hardly a rousing surge over the line. With his new coach Pete Cowen, there is still a work-in-progress sign up but McIlroy still managed to get the job done. A win was the ultimate quick fix.

By all accounts, 2021 has been a season for high profile players emerging from so-called slumps. Jordan Spieth won for the first time in four years while Lydia Ko ended a three-year drought. Such slumps, for want of a better phrase, are all relative, of course.

Both Spieth and Ko still posted some decent results and showed flashes of their brilliance which suggested they were not entirely lost, just slightly off the beaten track. It’s been the same for McIlroy. In the period since his last victory in the 2019 WGC HSBC Champions, he had still notched seven top-fives and four other top-10s.

Of course, when you have achieved great feats, any dip in form is going to be magnified. Amid endless scrutiny, a multiple major winner like McIlroy is certainly not going to be afforded the luxury of being able to quietly muddle on in the anonymous margins.

The next question, of course, surrounds his major drought. It’s now seven years since he won the last of his four but even the golfing gods don’t know if he’ll add any more to that tally. The late great Seve, for instance, was 31 when he won his fifth major title but he never won another. McIlroy has just turned 32 and he seems to have turned a corner too with Sunday’s timely tonic. The US PGA Championship can’t come quickly enough for him. 


Stuart Wilson’s Walker Cup captaincy was not what you’d call plain sailing. Some of the Forfar man’s home-based players hardly had any competitive build-up due to covid restrictions. He lost his highest-ranked player, Sandy Scott, to injury just a couple of weeks before the match and then a mystery virus, which swept through both teams, caused more disruption and left key players sidelined. GB&I, the overwhelming underdogs on paper, showed great  spirit and skill amid the adversity and the narrow 14-12 loss left a feeling of what might have been.

The US have now won seven of the last nine meetings but this Walker Cup was by no means a walkover.