McGinley feels McIlroy's progress will be tested soon

Updated / Wednesday, 7 Feb 2018 06:44

Rory McIlroy will feature this week at Pebble Beach

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes the next two tournaments will speak volumes about Rory McIlroy’s progress after the end of his break from the sport.

McIlroy returned to the game following a prolonged break at the end of 2017, impressing with a third and second place finish since the end of his recuperation period and looks to be in strong form going into AT&T Pebble Beach tournament on Thursday.

McGinley told RTÉ Sport that the step up this week is the best barometer to gauge where McIlroy's game is in relation to the world's best players.

"From interviews and talking to him a little bit myself, he certainly seems to have his head on in terms of focus," said McGinley.

"I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes through these next weeks. He has put a lot of tournaments down in his schedule between now and the Masters.

"He is playing this week in Pebble Beach and next week in LA. The next two weeks more than anything else will tell us where he is at with his putting and where he is at mentally.

"The greens will not be perfect at Pebble Beach and neither in LA. I’m familiar with that coastline and the grass he faces. It’s bumpy, quick greens which is the two worst scenarios. It will really test him.

"We’ll have a view in the next weeks exactly where he is at and also comparing him to really strong fields, certainly in LA."

It was announced in the last few days that McIlroy would step back from his hosting duties at the Irish Open, a tournament he has provided a major lift to thanks to his stature in the game and the Rory Foundation.

Following a review of his approach to his career, McGinley, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell were asked to share the duties on a rotational basis, which they have all agreed to.

McGinley, who will host the next Irish Open, feels it is the right decision and four-time major winner McIlroy will still have a huge part to play.

"The model is instigated by Rory," explained McGinley. "As we all know, he has taken a big deep breath with his career over the winter period and rededicated himself to the game.

"Part of what he wanted to do was clear away many of the commitments he has faced and the Irish Open. As much as he has enjoyed it, he has also missed four of the last five cuts of the tournament.

"It’s a lot of responsibility and he wanted someone else to share that responsibility. That is it where it came from and we were all happy to take our role going forward with that.

"Next year is an important year for Ireland as we all know. The Open Championship comes back to Portrush and it will be huge for Ireland to host such a major event. I’ll probably be working for Sky rather than playing.

"It’s natural enough for me to take over this first one and move the Irish Open forward. It is a way, two weeks before the Open Championship, of having Rory’s mind clear to focus on golf alone and not having to worry about the Open Championship."

The 51-year-old is hoping to see continued development of Irish players with a view to joining the cycle.

"There is a rotation of five, Rory being the fifth, and once that rotation is over the European Tour will sit down and maybe decide another five and who knows that may well include guys like Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne.

"They are young in their careers and we want to keep them focused on their careers. Maybe five years down the line they would say they would like to be able to host it too. That’s a long way down the line. First thing is the initial cycle.

"[Rory] said he will [still] use that leverage that he has with other players. A certain player may want to play in Ireland two weeks before the Open Championship. Rory will do something in return. That’s how the guys at that level operate. They each support each others’ foundations and tournaments.

"My hosting duties is a figurehead, a lot of media duties, being involved in the decision on the venue, which hopefully should be decided in the next six months and European Tour will very much be part of that decision process as well and Dubai Duty Free.

"With the Open Championship on a links course two weeks after it, it’s quite clear we need to have it on a links golf course."