Sports | August 26, 2021 12:28 pm

Rory McIlroy Should Probably Take More Than Just Two Weeks Off From Golf

The 32-year-old is "mentally and physically fatigued." Why not take a month or two off?

Rory McIlroy hitting a shot in a tournament. The pro golfer will soon have played 34 events in just 15 months, as of September 2021, and thus deserves much more than two weeks off from the game.
McIlroy will soon have played 34 events in 15 months. That's ... too much.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

For most of us, there’s no such thing as too much golf. A recently retired relative of mine plans to play every single day next week. He’s absolutely jazzed.

But it’s a little different for the pros. In a recent interview with ESPN, Rory McIlroy, the current 16th-ranked player in the world, revealed that he’s due to put his clubs away for a bit. “This morning, I was tired. Look … just summoning up the effort to get out of bed and get to your 7:20 pro-am tee time, it took a little more effort today than it usually does … It’s a lot of golf. It’s hard to feel fresh at this time in the season — it all just sort of catches up with you.”

By “this morning,” the Northern Irishman was referring to his performance in the Northern Trust tournament at Liberty National Golf Course. At one point, McIlroy apparently “threw his 3-wood into the trees near the New Jersey Turnpike on the ninth tee.” He was reacting to a poor shot, sure, but by his own admission, his head just isn’t right at the moment. He suspects that he’s played more golf than he should have since June 2020 — which will add up to 34 events in just 15 months after September’s Ryder Cup.

All those tournaments add up to a ton of travel, which means time away from McIlroy’s wife Erica and his daughter Poppy, who was born last September.

Their Stateside residence is in Jupiter, Florida, and McIlroy tries to sneak down as often as possible: “I want to spend a lot more time at home. I wanted to get home even in between these two events, so I flew down from New York, Monday night, so I could get a night in my own bed Monday, spend a few hours with [my wife and daughter] and then I flew up here yesterday afternoon. Yeah, any chance I get to go home, especially at this point in the season when we’ve been away so much, I’m going to take it.”

Flying home during a tournament that isn’t going his way? That’s certainly no deadbeat dad. But it does makes one wonder why McIlroy was competing in the Northern Trust at all. If the man is homesick, mentally and physically fatigued, and clearly in need of a reset, why not take some extended time off? At the moment, McIlroy looks poised to take about two weeks off in mid-September, after the Tour Championship and ahead of the Ryder Cup.

But it’s not like at the end of that two-week period McIlroy will be magically rebooted and ready to smile his way to eagles again. That’s an arbitrary span of time, which caters to a schedule that McIlroy is already struggling to keep up with.

It’s completely understandable that the 32-year-old doesn’t want to skip the Ryder Cup. He hasn’t missed a session yet. And it makes sense, too, that he might not be pining for a multi-month, self-induced exile from the game, similar to last year’s quarantine. (McIlroy struggled to return to good form during last year’s truncated tour.) But if you’re hurting — which it sure seems like he is right now — why not take an “indefinite period of time” away from the game?

If we learned one thing from the Simone Biles saga at the Tokyo Games, it’s that the sporting community is finally willing to consider the mental mores that come with competing at the highest level of athletics. Fans (and brands!) are ready to celebrate a pro’s courage for letting the world know when they just don’t have it — instead of demanding that they breathe fire on their enemies at all times, a la Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.

Let’s be clear: There is no shame in wanting to see your daughter grow up. There is no sane trainer who disputes the benefits of recovery fitness. And there is no way McIlroy would forget how to drive, chip or putt if he took a few months away from the game. Ironically, it’s Tiger — the man who has most embodied the “life is golf and nothing else” ethos — who can also attest to that fact. He traveled down into the pits of Tartarus, twice, and still came back to win the Masters at age 43.

So take your time, Rory. You’ll probably still want to throw your clubs when you get back. That’s just golf. But you’ll be able to throw them a little farther after some well-deserved R&R.