Will Rory McIlroy ever win another Major?

With the PGA Championship returning to Valhalla and marking 10 years since Rory McIlroy’s last Major win, all the talk is about whether the Northern Irishman can break that decade-long duck.

It’s 10 years since Rory McIlroy last won a Major. This week’s PGA Championship is at Valhalla, the home of McIlroy’s last Major triumph in 2014.

He’s in red-hot form, having won his last two PGA Tour events at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship.

Rory is second-favorite to win this week, behind an imperious Scottie Scheffler who may well be distracted by the recent birth of his first child. The stars seem to be aligning for McIlroy, so is this the week he finally breaks the drought? Today’s Golfer Editor Rob Jerram thinks so, but Contributing Editor Rob McGarr begs to differ… FIGHT!

Rory McIlroy hitting into the par 3 14th hole at Valhalla Golf Club

Rob McGarr: It pains me to say it, but I don’t think Rory McIlroy will ever win another Major.

Rob Jerram: It’s madness to suggest Rory won’t win another Major. People are talking like the guy’s done. He’s 35, World No.2 and his Major record is exceptional.

RM: He’s far from done, but is his Major record “exceptional”? He’s only been in the final group twice in the last 10 years.

RJ: You don’t have to be in the final group to win a Major. And those two final groupings came with even more pressure, which, despite what some may think, Rory doesn’t thrive under. When he missed out to Patrick Reed at The Masters he had the expectation that he was going to win the Career Grand Slam and prevent Patrick Reed from winning a Green Jacket, which, let’s be honest, everyone wanted! 

RM: True, but he loves a backdoor top-10 finish when he was never really in contention. He has a bad round at some point between Thursday and Saturday and then plays great on Sunday when he was always too far off to win. We all say, “Cor isn’t Rory amazing, if only he hadn’t shot 75 on Friday or whatever he would have blitzed the field…” but he always does shoot that 75 on Friday or whatever. So then you look back and see all these strong results, which is great – and boosts his world ranking – but it doesn’t help him win one. If anything, it’s worse, because every Major that goes by is just more scar tissue.

And a guy who doesn’t thrive under Major pressure and hasn’t won one for a decade isn’t someone I’d want to have money on…

Rory McIlroy looks dejected after missing out on winning the 150th Open at St Andrews.

RJ: I only think there are a handful that will have caused genuine scar tissue – last year’s US Open was a far bigger missed opportunity than the 2018 Masters or 150th Open. Wyndham Clark’s Major record was poor heading into that tournament and Rory blew it. He even got a very generous drop on the 14th but made a bogey. For me, that was the one that got away. It would’ve been a statement win and shown that he should be feared when his name is at the top of the leaderboard on a Sunday.

And we have to hold our hands up about The 150th Open and just say Cam Smith was incredible on the Sunday. Rory got nothing going but he still shot a two-under final round playing alongside Viktor Hovland, who was going backwards. it’s not like he lost that Major – Smith won it.

RM: Rory hit every green that day and missed birdie putt after birdie putt. If he’d holed something – anything – Cam Smith might not have won it.

According to Data Golf, his “Expected Major Return” is only 1.12 across the last nine years since he last won, which shows he’s not actually as close as we always think.

I don’t think he’s as feared these days as he used to be.

RJ: He’s played 59 Majors so far and, assuming he stays fit until he’s 50, he’s probably got another 50 in him. Are you really confident enough to say he won’t win another Major in 50 attempts, because that’s a brave bet? I genuinely wouldn’t be willing to bet against him wining a Major this year because expectation is actually dropping and, with that, the pressure will drop.

Rory McIlroy is playing with a TaylorMade Qi10 Driver

RM: Don’t get me wrong, he’s clearly one of the best players in the world, so there’s every chance he will win one – I just think the odds are getting worse and worse. The average age of winners in each of the Majors is getting younger and younger (The Open: 33 Masters: 31.5 PGA Championship: 29.7 U.S. Open: 27.6). Rory’s biggest strength is his driving – as he gets older and is no longer one of the biggest hitters, are you backing his short game and putting to compensate? I don’t think he’s hit a wedge to within 20′ in about 10 years…

RJ: I can’t argue with the wedge comment – he’s clearly better off the tee than he is with his wedges and the strokes gained: approach stats back that up. But even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut and the chances are there will be a week when it comes together. He’s clearly searching for something right now, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to Butch Harmon.

I want to see Rory doing more with Butch. Not only do I think he’s the man to get him back to swinging the club the way he did a decade ago, but he’s a great psychologist and I think believing he can win another Major is just as important as the way he’s swinging.

RM: Surely something has gone horribly wrong when we’re talking about blind squirrels when discussing Rory’s golf game? He was unreal when he was younger!

The signs at The Masters of his work with Butch weren’t promising, but I’m glad he’s trying to do something different to fix his weaknesses and I hope it works. But I think he’s doing other stuff that’s actually harming his own chances. I couldn’t believe when he did this:

Eight shots back already and he’s doing a mid-round interview.

RJ: I totally agree about that walk and talk. Rory sees himself as a figurehead and has been happy to put himself out there in the past but he appears to be changing. It was great content but it was not what he should have been doing because there are enough distractions for him in Major weeks.

RM: I think it’s a result he’s ended up not getting back on the PGA Tour Policy Board, because that would just be another distraction.

RJ: Rory knows the buck stops with him. Plenty of people want to blame other things when he puts in a bad performance, whether it’s pointing the finger at Harry Diamond, his caddie, or citing outside distractions, but Rory’s the one hitting the shots and if he felt those things were the issue he’d have changed them by now.

Watch the latest season of Full Swing and you’ll see him having a bit of a breakdown and admitting he’s lost, but he’s not blaming anyone else. He’s searching for something at the moment and he will find it. Only four men can succeed at a Major every year, there’s a reason they’re the toughest titles to win, but ask the majority of players who they’d fear most if he was in contention on a Sunday and a high percentage would still say Rory because he is capable of the spectacular.

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are World No.1 and No.2 respectively.

RM: I can’t disagree with him being capable of the spectacular. I’m not sure about him being the person other players would fear the most, though. I think he’s shown himself to be fallible too many times. I think players fear opponents who are robotic and unflappable – Michael Schumacher types who you can’t let get ahead. You just knew Scottie Scheffler wasn’t going to have a Sunday meltdown at Augusta and gift someone else a Green Jacket. Even if Rory was a few shots clear come the back nine of a Major, I think those chasing him would feel there’s always chance he slips up.

RJ: Willing to bet against him for Valhalla – off the back of a dominant Sunday performance at the Wells Fargo?

RM: Was the Wells Fargo a Major? It’s never been a question that he can win normal tour events.

It’s now 10 years since he won a big one. The longest gap anyone has ever had before winning another is 11 years.

RJ: The 11-year gap thing is largely irrelevant – that normally just comes down to age and them being past their best. No one is seriously saying McIlroy is past his best, are they? Rory won his Majors young and has another ten years at the top. Whether he storms to a dominant win or gets himself in the mix and needs someone else to come back to him, he’ll get one over the line.

If he does it soon then I think he’ll get a few more against his name. The longer it goes the tougher that will become, but the odds of him never winning another Major would be huge. He was 7/4 to win a Major in 2024 on New Year’s Day.

You never count great players out. You were probably among the Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and Tiger doubters…

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are set to pocket a share of $750 million.

RM: Actually, that’s a brilliant point, but quite the opposite – I always thought Tiger would win a 15th. I think all of those guys had that next-level grit that meant you could never write them off. We both agree Rory certainly doesn’t lack the ability to win another Major – or several more. But do you think he’s on the same level mentally as those guys?

RJ: No, I’m straw-clutching! I wouldn’t rule Tiger out of winning another Major again even now – you just can’t! I’ve listened to him in countless interview rooms and immediately been transfixed and convinced that he would win that week. On the flipside, after watching Rory’s ten-minute press visit at Augusta I was 100% convinced that he wouldn’t be slipping on the Green Jacket. But I think when he gets in the zone and you see his eyes get that focus and the confident walk returns, it’s hard not to believe he can blow anyone out of the water.

Rory McIlroy was the leading points scorer at the 2023 Ryder Cup..

RM: Yeah, there is a mode he goes into where you know he’s going to do damage. After Saturday night at the Ryder Cup, I’d have bet my life he’d win his singles match on the Sunday, whoever he played against. That car park bust-up got him fired up and then he made eight birdies in 15 holes to brush Sam Burns aside.

Some golfers perform best when keeping it all in perspective. Scottie Scheffler keeps saying golf isn’t his main priority, and I kind of believe him. Rory isn’t that guy. He’s best when he’s pumped up, bit between his teeth, bouncing down the fairways with that unmistakable spring in his step.

All this other stuff is a distraction. It means he has to play the mature, balanced, reasonable politician-type figure. I think he’s at his best when he’s single-mindedly out there to blow everyone away.

Rory McIlroy is hoping to repeat his 2014 US PGA victory at Valhalla when it returns to the venue this year.

RJ: Sod it, maybe it’s the six decaf coffees talking, but I think he wins this week. I’m a sucker for a storyline but the PGA Championship is at Valhalla this year, ten years on from Rory’s last Major victory… at Valhalla. Feels fitting. A decade-long wait ended with a dominant moving-day display that sees him paired with Talor Gooch on Sunday, where he blitzes the LIV invitee and rips open his Nike polo on the final green to reveal a “No Asterisk Required!” vest.

I don’t think the divorce helps, but the fact it’s now out there – even though it’s none of our business, really – will probably be a huge weight off for him. We’ve seen him step up his game over the last few weeks so I’m assuming he made a decision about it or made his peace with it before that and has then turned his focus fully back to golf as a way to deal with things.

The strongest Rory is the one who is laser-focused with a point to prove and I expect to see both of those things at Valhalla. He’ll block the noise this week – don’t expect loads of questions and answers about Erica, as that won’t happen. And let’s not forget what happened the last time he ended a relationship (Caroline Wozniaki, 2014). He won the BMW PGA Championship days later and then went on to win The Open and the US PGA Championship… at Valhalla.

RM: I hope you’re right. I think you’re not.

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About the authors

Rob McGarr is a freelance writer who produces regular content for Today's Golfer.

Rob McGarr – Contributing Editor

Rob has been a writer and editor for over 15 years, covering all manner of subjects for leading magazines and websites.

He has previously been Features Editor of Today’s Golfer magazine and Digital Editor of todays-golfer.com, and held roles at FHM, Men’s Running, Golf World, and MAN Magazine.

You can follow him on YouTube where – depending on what day of the week it is – he’ll either be trying his best to get his handicap down to scratch or shoving his clubs in a cupboard, never to be seen again.

Rob is a member at Royal North Devon, England’s oldest golf course, where he plays off a three-handicap.

Rob Jerram is Today's Golfer's Digital Editor.

Rob Jerram – Digital Editor

Rob specializes in the DP World Tour, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the Ryder Cup, spending large chunks of his days reading about, writing about, and watching the tours each month.

He’s passionate about the equipment used by professional golfers and is also a font of knowledge regarding golf balls, golf trolleys, and golf bags, testing thousands down the years.

You can email Rob or get in touch with him on X.

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