Spark. Mojo. Pizzazz. Whatever you call it, Rory McIlroy doesn't have it right now.
When McIlroy takes to the green at TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship on Thursday he’ll be doing so as the defending champion, having won the tournament in 2019 (2020’s was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic), but also as someone who is in desperate need of rediscovering his form.
A double-bogey on the sixth put an end to the Northern Irishman’s challenge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this weekend, finishing tied for tenth overall, eight shots behind the winner, Bryson DeChambeau, and found himself dropping out of the world top ten for the first time in three years. In fact, this is just the 15th week since 2010 in which McIlroy has been outside of that bracket.
It was a weekend to forget and there’s no denying the 31-year-old has found himself in a bit of a rut, having not won since November 2019.
"There was some good parts this week again," McIlroy acknowledged. "Some stuff that I don't know how to describe it, but just a little dejected or maybe looking to go in a different direction.
"I don't know. I need something, I need a spark, I need something and I just don't seem to have it. Some days it's good, some days it's not.
"So I'll get up there [Sawgrass] tomorrow, get some practice in and get ready for next week."
The Players Championship represents the perfect antidote for the ailing McIlroy, who was ranked fourth in the world at the turn of the year, and a win in Florida, in front of a crowd, albeit reduced, would put him right back on track.
"I think we're all sort of now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel where things can at least get back to some sort of normality pretty soon," said McIlroy.
"I can't believe it's been a year. It's going to be surreal looking back in 20 years time and sort of seeing what we lived through. But, yeah, I'm just looking forward to things going back to normal."
Despite his indifferent form of late, McIlroy actually enters the competition as the second-favourite at 12/1, just behind Dustin Johnson (11/1) and ahead Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, DeChambeau, and John Rahm (both 14/1).
With the Players this week and The Masters just around the corner, expect a big month ahead for Rors.