You may have noticed that October has been pretty wet. Pulling open the curtains each morning and being greeted by a wearisome, grey ceiling of overwhelming misery has been a bit like waking up in some dank Dickensian prison. It’s been so damp, even the clouds that are throwing down relentless torrents have started to rust at the edges. In fact, the all-round moistness is at such a level, this column just about had to be etched into papier mache.

We could do with a little bit of respite to lift the morale couldn’t we? Thankfully, the world of golf can easily transport us to some distant land where the sky is blue and the sun is shining. And no, I’m not taking about the Husband & Wife Autumn Quaich at Dunbar.

Switching on the TV on Sunday night to see Rory McIlroy returning to the summit of the global order in shimmering South Carolina was a timely tonic. It also felt like something of a return to normality.

Let’s face it, the last few months at the top end of men’s professional golf has been so stormy, you half expected the on-going saga involving LIV Golf and the established tours to appear on the Shipping Forecast.

Rather like glimpsing a port in the midst of a raging tempest, seeing McIlroy back as world No.1 is a comforting sight. I’m sure LIV supremo Greg Norman doesn’t think that but there you go. McIlroy has been a strong voice for golf’s traditional powers against the backdrop of rancour and recrimination in the game’s civil war. This rise back to his rightful perch has emboldened his statesman-like standing.

It’s been quite a year for McIlroy and, in the wake of his successful defence of the CJ Cup, the 33-year-old offered a little insight into the transformation of his campaign. The healthy eating gurus in our midst always hiss that ‘you are what you eat’. In McIlroy’s case, it was a case of what he didn’t eat after a missed cut in the Valero Texas Open back in March. “I’d missed the cut and, for some reason, I couldn’t get out of town that night,” McIlroy explained. “The hotel was busy and when I rang down for room service they said it would be a two-and-a-half-hour wait. So, I’d basically missed the cut, gone to sleep on an empty stomach and I was like, ‘let’s just wake up tomorrow and start again’. At that stage if you’d have told me I would be world No.1 by October, I would have asked you what you were smoking. It’s just been a wild six months.”

It certainly has. After going to bed with no supper in San Antonio, McIlroy served up quite the eye-watering feast on his next outing and closed with a thrilling 64 at Augusta to grab second place in The Masters. From there, he has been a golfer reborn. In the 15 events he has played since that missed cut in Texas, the four-time major winner has recorded three wins and nine top-10s. It’s been a remarkably consistent run.

The critics will mutter and mumble that he still hasn’t ended a major championship drought stretching back to 2014 but, my goodness, he can’t be far away. In this endlessly fickle, topsy-turvy game, of course, it’s best not to make predictions about a player achieving this, that and the other because as soon as you do that, they’ll inevitably not win this, they’ll definitely not contend at that and they’ll possibly make a right old hash of the other.

In this current surge of form, though, McIlroy looks the complete package again. For a while, the contentment he had found off the course, with the birth of his daughter in 2020, wasn’t mirrored by contentment on the course as the weighty burden of trying to rediscover his previous majesty often left his shoulders drooped at half-mast. As 2022 comes to a close, though, an energised McIlroy has new purpose.

You never stop learning in this fascinating, flummoxing, infuriating and occasionally rewarding pursuit. Even now, for instance, I’m still trying to heed that simple yet sage advice that implores me to “keep the left airm straight and your een on the erse o’ the ba’.” It’s a highly technical, finely tuned game I play.

McIlroy, meanwhile, will

keep working away too in the

never-ending quest for improvement. “I never feel like I’ve figured this game out,” he said, echoing the sentiments of golfers the world

over. “I don’t think I ever will figure it out, but every day I wake up trying to get closer.”

McIlroy’s transformation since Texas proves that every cloud has a silver lining. Now, if those clouds would just stop leaking…


She’s still only 25 but Lydia Ko has enjoyed the kind of longevity that bungling UK Prime Ministers couldn’t even begin to imagine. A decade after winning her first LPGA Tour title as a teenage amateur, Ko knocked off her 18th win on the women’s stage in the BMW Ladies Championship. With 13 top-10s in 20 starts this year, it’s not surprising that the Kiwi said this is “probably the best I’ve played.”

Ko wants to retire at 30. There’s plenty to add to the pension pot yet.