Renowned Sports Psychologist Gives Opinion on Rory McIlroy and the 2024 US Open

“I was on the edge of my seat throughout. I just kept thinking to myself 'I'm glad I'm not standing on the tee box.“

by Sead Dedovic
Renowned Sports Psychologist Gives Opinion on Rory McIlroy and the 2024 US Open
© Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images Sport

This year, the US Open gave us what we wanted. Golf fans expected another exciting Major, but few expected things to unfold as they did. Bryson DeChambeau finally managed to realize his dream, and after four years, to win the Major again. 

On the other hand, the man on whom the most attention was focused, Rory McIlroy, lost after missing two putts on the 16th and 18th holes. DeChambeau scored a one-shot victory. 

Sports psychologist, Gareth Shaw, in an interview for Golf Monthly, reflected on the last edition of the US Open, with special emphasis on Rory McIlroy. He admitted that he had difficult moments watching the last round.

The last time the Northern Irishman won the Major was ten years ago, so it could be expected that there will be enormous pressure on him. Rory McIlroy, it was noticed, played in a certain amount of fear and cramp, especially when it came to the last holes. The mental component of the game is what he will have to work on, but it is very difficult to be optimistic when things are not going your way from week to week.

“I was on the edge of my seat throughout. I just kept thinking to myself 'I'm glad I'm not standing on the tee box or on the putting green trying to make these putts!' I think somebody said to Bryson afterwards that this is probably one of the most pivotal Majors that we've had in the last 50 years, such was the drama. “- Shaw said.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy© Alex Slitz/Getty Images Sport

The sports psychologist stresses that the pressure in such important golf tournaments can have a huge impact on a golfer like Rory McIlroy. Although the Northern Irishman is a golfer with a lot of experience, and someone who has many Majors behind him, when you are close to victory, it is difficult to stay focused and take the pressure off yourself. Shaw recalled the 2011 Masters where Rory also came close to success but suffered the same outcome.

“But it really had everything. From Bryson’s bunker shot to Rory and the couple of putts that he missed. I don't think we've had one of these… what impact this type of finish will have on Rory… since the Masters in 2011, since the last time Rory did something like this. I know it was in a bigger magnitude in terms of he had a huge lead, but he had a pretty convincing lead going into the last three or four holes yesterday, and it just showed that kind of pressure of the situation and the toughness of the golf course.“- he continued.

Gareth Shaw admitted that he listened to several golf podcasts and analyzed what the experts, fans, and guests had to say. Right before the start of the new edition of the US Open, the focus was on Pinehurst, considering that it is one of the most challenging golf courses ever. It is extremely difficult to play on such a course, even when you are an experienced golfer like Rory really is. 

The sports psychologist stresses that the way they set up this golf course was a huge challenge for everyone. Shaw points out that these golf courses are designed for an individual to make a mistake, and it is very difficult to stay focused. He believes that it is challenging to play on such a course, and when you take into account the pressure factor and the importance of the tournament, it is difficult to make a positive result.

Gareth Shaw on what Rory McIlroy needs to work on 

Shaw answered a Golf Monthly reporter's question about what he would work on with Rory McIlroy if he were his sports psychologist. First of all, he pointed out that McIlroy must more clearly define his goals and preparations before the Majors. In addition, he points out that the Northern Irishman must look back at some earlier editions of the Major where he achieved victories, and find out what was crucial for his success. These are some important things that Rory will obviously have to work on with the team.

“Tiger, in his heyday, had a meticulously planned schedule and process for his Major wins and his Major performances. I think we've seen with Rory a little bit of inconsistency over the last few years of playing the week before, not playing the week before, I'm going to not turn up till the last minute on the Wednesday and then play. So, I'd love him to kind of nail down, with his team, structure and routine for approaching Major championships.

That's the first thing I’d do with him, especially in this winless droughts with Majors, and also reflect back. What's worked well in the past? Look back on the Major victories and ascertain what has worked well before.“- he concluded

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