Though he has played some excellent golf since the PGA Tour restarted in mid-June, Rory McIlroy has not yet finished in the top 10. At the Northern Trust two weeks ago, McIlroy admitted in the last few weeks, he has just been going through the motions.
On the Saturday afternoon, after Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy finished off their respective lackluster third rounds at the Northern Trust, they did something unusual: They found a picnic table outside the media tent and had a cheeseburger lunch – a sight that would have been unthinkable before the Covid-19 pandemic, as TPC Boston is usually packed with avid fans.
But there they were, sharing laughs over Diet Cokes under the beating New England sun. After their round on Sunday, Woods and McIlroy each made a series of insightful remarks in discussing just how strange everything feels on Tour at the moment.
For two players who feed off the energy of the crowd, things feel a bit off. “This is going to sound really bad,” McIlroy said. “But I feel like the last few weeks, I’ve just been going through the motions.
I want to get an intensity and some sort of fire, but I just haven’t been able to. And look, that’s partly to do with the atmosphere and partly to do with how I’m playing. I’m not inspiring myself, and I’m trying to get inspiration from outside sources to get something going”.
It seems there is just no way to replicate the feeling of a large-scale Tour event. Graeme McDowell said he felt like a “golfing zombie” earlier this week; McIlroy agreed with that assessment. Woods said that he’s used to deriving his own energy from the feeling in the crowd.
“Always have,” he said. “I’ve played in front of thousands of people ever since I turned pro 24 years ago. Woods allowed that there are some perks; it’s an undeniably easier existence this way.
Practice rounds in particular have been a breeze. “It’s always been odd when I haven’t played in front of people, and you know, in one way, it’s been nice between tees not getting tapped or getting a glove pulled out of my pocket.
Those are things I’ve had to deal with for a very long time”.
In total, though, Tiger Woods would much prefer the vibe of the crowd.
“You hit good shots and you get on nice little runs, we don’t have the same energy, the same fan energy,” he said.
“It is different”. Both Woods and McIlroy agreed that other players get an advantage from the small crowds. “Absolutely,” Woods said. “Anyone who has played in front of thousands of people, it is very different.
Usually between 20,000 and 40,000 people screaming and yelling. That’s always been one of the things I’ve become accustomed to; the guys who played with me, who haven’t become accustomed to it, they have only experienced one round here and there; that’s been every round I’ve played for over two decades.
“That advantage, for me and some of the other top players that have been out here for a while who have experienced it, trying to deal with all that noise and the movement, that experience is no longer there. “Also, I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re seeing more lower scores now,” he added, just two days removed from Scottie Scheffler shooting 59 and Dustin Johnson shooting 60 on the same day.
“You don’t have the same type of energy. Guys aren’t shooting as high of rounds as they normally would”.