Rory McIlroy in confident mood as he steps up FedEx Cup challenge

Irishman misses out on playoff by one shot at St Jude Classic but happy with his game as he heads for BMW Championship in Chicago

His sights still on the big prize, the pot of gold that awaits the winner of the FedEx Cup, Rory McIlroy departed Memphis and moved on to Chicago with renewed vigour.

Why wouldn’t he? Although the Northern Irishman finished one stroke outside of a playoff in the St Jude Classic, his performance – especially with his putting – over the weekend was encouraging.

There were no ifs, buts or maybes in contrasting his putting over the first two rounds with those of the last two.

“I think everyone in this field could look back over the four rounds and talk about the shots that they could have saved, but overall I have to be pleased with where I’m at,” said McIlroy.


McIlroy’s decision to get his Scotty Cameron putter slightly altered in a Memphis golf shop – with caddie Harry Diamond doing the necessary – proved significant, that one-eighth of an inch adjustment proving that short distances matter as much as powering balls over 350 yards off the tee.

McIlroy’s tied-third place finish in the St Jude, the first of three playoff tournaments, with the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings advancing onwards to Olympia Fields outside Chicago, ensured he remained very much in the mix when the playoffs conclude with next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta (confined to the top 30).

On that point, Séamus Power has work to do in Chicago if he is to extend his season stateside to the finale. The Waterford man dropped out of the top 30 to 35th and will need to find some form at the BMW if he is to drive himself back into that Tour Championship.

McIlroy, the world number two, notched up his eighth straight top-10 finish going back to the US PGA Championship in May and observed: “My game is in really good shape. I think tee-to-green, this is just a continuation of what I’ve been seeing over the past couple of months.

“Ever since the PGA Championship, all the way through to here, ball-striking-wise tee-to-green it’s been really good. With two playoff events to go, I’m certainly happy . . . nothing but confidence going to Chicago.”

He added: “[It’s another] block in the wall in terms of building the confidence, and from where my confidence was at the PGA Championship in May to where it is now, it’s completely different. I’ve been on a nice little run, and I have to keep it in perspective. I’m feeling really good about everything.”

So, McIlroy has moved on to Chicago very much on target for a shot at a fourth FedEx Cup title (he previously won in 2016, 2019 and 2022).

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow – who disappointed over the weekend in the AIG Women’s Open, Maguire finishing in tied 30th and Meadow in tied 56th – move on to familiar ground with this week’s ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle and Castlerock (players play alternate between the venues for the first two rounds.)

A dual-sanctioned event on the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour, there are separate men’s and women’s tournaments.

Maguire and Meadow are joined in the field by Olivia Mehaffey and amateur international Jessica Ross.

In the men’s tournament, there is a large Irish contingent of 11 players headed by European Open champion Tom McKibbin, who is the touring professional for Galgorm Castle.

McKibbin is joined in the field for the DP World Tour event by JR Galbraith, Dermot McElroy, David Carey, amateur international and Walker Cup hopeful Max Kennedy, Damien McGrane, John Murphy, Ruaidhrí McGee, Niall Kearney, Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin.

“There is nothing like teeing it up on home soil and playing in front of home crowds. Galgorm have been very good to me over the years and it holds a special place in my heart. It makes me extremely proud that this event has been such a trailblazer for innovation over the years, with men and women playing the same courses,” said McKibbin.

Robert MacIntyre, currently third on Europe’s Ryder Cup qualifying points standings (on the European points list), and Victor Perez, who is seventh, have included the ISPS event on their schedules in what is the third last event of the qualifying process with only the Czech Open and the European Masters to follow.

Shane Lowry’s failure to make the playoffs on the PGA Tour has forced him to change his schedule and he has now decided to include the Czech Masters next week.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times