On Golf: The disappearing act of Rory McIlroy

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm •  Published: December 9, 2013

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Rory's McIlroy's year began with a coronation. He was the star attraction at what felt like a rock concert, with music blaring and lasers flashing in a room at Abu Dhabi to celebrate the No. 1 player in golf joining Nike's stable.

It ended Sunday with a bogey on the ninth hole at Sherwood with hardly anyone watching.

An offseason never looked more appealing to him.

"It's been a long season, a long stretch," McIlroy said after signing for a 70 to finish 11th in an 18-man field at the World Challenge. "I'm excited to put the clubs down for a little bit, have a few weeks' rest and get after it at the start of the new year."

He won't have to worry about getting used to new equipment. He spent the better part of nine months doing that.

Expectations are sure to be lower.

A year ago, McIlroy was the clear No. 1 in golf. He was coming off another record win in a major — an eight-shot victory in the PGA Championship — and threw his game into overdrive with two FedEx Cup playoff wins and money titles on both sides of the Atlantic by closing his season with a win in Dubai.

It looked as if he would stay there for many years.

That lasted three months.

There were equipment issues, a product of changing everything at once instead of slowly working the swoosh into his bag, as Tiger Woods did a decade earlier. He changed management companies, which ordinarily is a seamless transition unless the split is ugly.

McIlroy is scheduled to be in a courtroom in Ireland not long after the Ryder Cup next year. So yes, this is ugly. According to reports in Irish newspapers, he split with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki at least twice, maybe three times. Except it wasn't true. The tennis star was at Sherwood all week, an ever-present smile as she followed him along, even going across the parking lot to hit balls (tennis, not golf) at Sherwood's stadium court.

All that became as tough an obstacle as anything on the golf course.

McIlroy, for all his brilliance inside the ropes, is refreshingly honest when it comes to his golf and often self-deprecating. He was talking earlier in the week about playing casual rounds with friends, noting that he had more of those days than in previous years.

"Had more weekends (off)," he said.

It wasn't that bad, though his golf certainly was by his standards. He failed to make the cut five times, which is high for a player of his caliber. One was at the British Open. Another was at the Honda Classic, where he walked off the course after 26 holes out of frustration, blaming it on his wisdom tooth.

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