They expected better from Rory McIlroy this past weekend at Wentworth.
The good folks from Surrey and everywhere else within shouting distance of the iconic Wentworth Club showed up in droves.
They were 14 deep on Saturday and Sunday, there to get a glimpse of Rory McIlroy — the most famous sportsman in the United Kingdom.
They were there by the thousands, figuring he’d easily win this latest playing of the BMW PGA Championship, an absolute biggie on the European Tour. They figured it was his to win or lose after McIlroy opened 67-65 and looked virtually unbeatable, the way he can when he’s got it going.
The problem is that this 29-year-old version of McIlroy simply doesn’t get it going often enough or long enough.
What the massive galleries got was another head-scratching performance, another weekend’s 36 holes of total underperformance that once again leaves everyone with more questions than answers when it comes to Rory McIlroy.
He was by far the most talented player in this field, the highest-ranked, the one who carried the most expectations.
For two days, he gave them all what they came to see.
Then, as suddenly as you can say “fourth round, 2018 Masters” there was another face-flop by Rory.
Once again, he continues to work on an advanced degree in Slump-ology at The Jordan Spieth School Of Underachievement.
This one was pretty tough to watch.
On Saturday, Francesco Molinari danced circles around Rory with his third round 66 while McIlroy played over par most of that afternoon and only a birdie-birdie finish allowed him to get into red numbers with an unimpressive 71. Still, it left him tied for the lead after 54, 13-under with Molinari. But Saturday was simply a foreboding of things to come over the final 18.
Molinari started quickly with birdies at three and four and was off and running. McIlroy didn’t make a birdie until the eighth hole then immediately canceled it out with a bogey at nine.
Everyone else was scoring.
By the 12th hole, Molinari was four clear of McIlroy. He then proceeded to go into the old Carolina Four Corners offense over the final six holes. Somewhere Dean Smith was smiling.
What happened in this latest loss by McIlroy is that he was “small-balled” to death. Molinari simply out-fairwayed and out-greened the long-hitting McIlroy, who was pretty inaccurate over the weekend — the Bomber’s Curse.
Once again, the wedges and putter were McIlroy’s Krytonite.
In the end, it took two birdies for McIlroy to finish second. He shot 70 but was the only player in the top 10 who didn’t break 70.
Molinari, who collected his biggest career win, shot a nice 68. Lucas Bjerregaard tied Alex Noren for second with a spiffy 65, Noren tossed in a 67. Even the Fat Thai Guy, aka Kiradech Aphibarnrat went low with a 67 and tied Braden Grace (68) for fifth. Everyone scored except Rory.
Once again McIlroy was subdued after this latest soul-crusher.
“It is disappointing,” he said. “He (Molinari) was like a robot, he doesn’t hit it off line. I would have needed a great round to beat him.
“Today I played similar to Saturday, I could not get going and gave Molinari a lead early on. It was a little too late for me in the end.”
Rory was like a robot as well, albeit one of those television Battle-Bots that just got the living daylights hammered out of it.
This is one of those losses that simply zaps the confidence out of a player, even one with McIlroy’s talent and firepower.
Yeah, it’s a big-time headscratcher as we sit back and see that McIlroy hasn’t won a major championship since that great 2014 season when he took The Open Championship and PGA, back-to-back.
That seems like a decade ago, even though it’s going on four years.
To which we wonder out loud, maybe, perhaps, dare we ask if McIlroy, at age 29, is already past his prime?