Rory McIlroy: A Year in Review
2017 has been quite a mixed, yet eventful year for Rory McIlroy. One of the most popular players on Tour has endured quite a stop-start year on the fairways but has seen his life flourish in other ways.
With his final tournament of the season - the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - now firmly in the books, we thought it would be a good time to have a look back at the key events in his last twelve months.
Two Become One
A underwhelming 2017 on the golf course sat in stark contrast to a year which has seen the former world number one's personal life thrive, most notably through marrying his girlfriend, and former PGA employee, Erica Stoll.
Just after April's 81st Masters tournament, the pair wed in a lavish ceremony in County Mayo, Ireland amid a sea of A-list guests and fellow golfers. It was an occasion that McIlroy would go on to describe as the best weekend of his life and helped add another dimension to his well-publicised newfound perspective.
Back in February of this year, the Northern Irishman stated in an interview that he 'wouldn't miss golf as much' if it were to disappear now that he had Erica in his life.
Despite all of this off-course serenity, it has been a bit of a golfing battle for McIlroy this year. A troublesome rib injury has been niggling throughout 2017 creating a real source of frustration, not least due to his inability to put in the training required to hit shots on-demand within the usual high octane tournament play that we see every week on both the PGA and European Tours.
As a case in point, this year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, a course where he famously captured a first PGA Tour event back in 2010, seemed set up beautifully to allow the current world number five to at least challenge for a fifth major championship. Alas, it wasn't to be and, despite a solid final round 68, he could manage only a T-22. McIlroy has spoken since of a general feeling that a golden opportunity had slipped by and this was due, in part, to his injury troubles this year.
Watch Rory talking about his rib injury earlier in the year below:'TaylorMade' for success
This year also saw McIlroy sign a $100M TaylorMade deal back in May and after Nike decided to leave the golf equipment market to focus on clothing solely.
It will have been about the technology as much as the money for Rory. Among other glowing endorsements from the golfing community at large, current and former world number ones in Dustin Johnson and Jason Day both use TaylorMade equipment. Given this - and not to mention his own positive testing sessions - TaylorMade were always going to be a strong contender for McIlroy's signature.
In any case, a $200M extension of his ongoing clothing deal with Nike meant that he wasn't going to be left short financially whatever his decision.
Watch Rory's ceremonial bag-switch below:Reinvigorated Rory?
Finishing this season without a win - on either Tour - for only the second time in ten years will have hurt. For a golfer so used to success to have been on the periphery of all that was good about the 2017 golfing year is just not what many of us or, more importantly, the man himself would have expected.
It would be accurate to say that when he's on his game, the 28-year old is a match for any of the existing or emerging talents in today's game. Ending his season early to focus on rehabilitation, McIlroy hopes to start 2018 well and to be challenging the likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka by the time the scent of Augusta National's azaleas starts to circle in early April.
With a more settled outlook on life, and with plenty of money in the bank, Rory's focus has returned to creating a legacy, and he can achieve this by renewing his love affair with the major championships. It may be a far more competitive environment than when he captured his first back in 2011, and more golfers are playing the game in the same swashbuckling manner as he has over the past six years or so.
It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Rory back to form next year. We certainly all hope to see him back to his major-winning best.
How do you rate Rory's last 12 months? Can he return to win a major in 2018? Let us know below.