PHOTORoryMcIiroyRory McIlroy dominated the 2012 season, winning four times, earning PGA Tour player of the year honors, finishing No. 2 in the FedExCup standings and topped both the PGA Tour and European Tour money list. But, so far this season, after eight months of winless, mediocre golf, the former No. 1 player has not been atop any leaderboards and the big question is what happened?

When McIlroy tees it up Friday at 12:46 p.m. in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, paired with Nick Watney and Roberto Castro, he hopes to silence the critics and defend his title, on a TPC Boston course he is comfortable with. He crushed the course last year, ending the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship at 20-under-par, good for a one-stroke victory over Louis Oosthuizen.
That 20-under score marked the best of his career in official PGA events, and though he matched it en route to winning the BMW Championship the very next week, McIlroy has yet to surpass it. One year ago, McIlroy also won the PGA Championship three weeks prior to the Deutsche Bank and no less than 50 players went under par at TPC Boston last year, with Louis Oosthuizen coming in second at -19 and Tiger Woods placing third at -18. Scores like that are rare on the PGA Tour, even when you have the top 100 players in the world competing.

“I feel like I’m a confident person, but when you play some tournaments and they don’t go your way, of course your confidence is going to get knocked a little bit,” he said in preparation for Friday. “Winning, as well, is a habit. Once you get on a roll and you can get yourself into contention, if you keep winning all the time, you get into the habit of knowing what to do or knowing what it takes to get that trophy at the end of the week. Obviously, that’s a habit that I’m trying to get back into.”
Everyone from Gary Player to Jay Leno has weighed in on what’s up with Rory? In his last five tournaments, McIlroy is a combined 20-over par. Is he the next David Duval? Conspiracy theory No. 1 is that his well-publicized equipment change from Titleist to Nike along with a hefty multi-million dollar endorsement deal is to blame. Some speculate that his off-course romance with tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki has caused distraction. Through 14 events this season the 23-year old Northern Ireland born-and-raised talent has five top-10s, a 71.13 scoring average, one missed cuts and ranks No. 4 worldwide.

“The thing that I’ve been disappointed about most this year has been my driving. I just haven’t hit as many fairways as I should and that’s what really killed my scoring ability,” he added. “I’m seeing shots and striking the ball well. My short game seems pretty sharp and I’m rolling the ball nicely. Everything seems pretty good.”

Expectations are high and it’s going to take more than a pretty good effort for McIlroy to get back to golf’s kingdom. He let the golf world down with his expected rivalry with Tiger Woods because he’s not good enough. Woods has five wins this year & is untouchable, and is the heavy favorite here where he won in 2006.

What it takes to win at TPC For the 11th consecutive year the Deutsche Bank Championship tees off over Labor Day weekend. Because it’s a holiday weekend, action tees off Friday instead of Thursday, and concludes Monday (Labor Day) instead of Sunday.

Originally designed by Arnold Palmer and opened in 2002, TPC Boston was remodeled by Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon in 2007. One of the unique features that duo included was chocolate-drop mounds, which are essentially bulging, round mounds with extra tall grass.

The TPC course tallies 7,216-yards, with par-71, and the course begins with a short, 365-yard par 4 that features some of those chocolate-drop mounds on the fairway’s left side. The big hitters might want to pull out the driver to get things started, but if they sail it left, a large bunker awaits in front of that side of the green. Regardless, it’s a nice hole to begin a round; it was the fourth-easiest last year, as players averaged 0.09 under par.

Hole No. 2 is the first of three par 5s, and played as the toughest among them in 2012. Still, it averaged 0.03 under par. Its 542 yards long and doglegs right around a lake. The green is on the small side, so players will need to stick it, because long or right goes in the water, and left could find a bunker.

The first of four par 3s comes at No. 3, which runs 208 yards. It ranked as the fourth-toughest last year (0.11 over par), right behind the 231-yard, par-3 11th hole (0.13). The other par 3s come at 8 (213 yards) and 16 (161 yards).

No. 4 is the course’s easiest hole, a 298-yard par 4. That means it’s drivable for most, but even laying up in front of the large straightaway bunker allows for a manageable approach. Of all the holes, the most birdies were had here (162).

TPC Boston’s longest hole is No. 7 at 600 yards. A long drive is, of course, needed off the tee, especially considering a massive bunker crosses the fairway and must be carried with the second shot. Nonetheless, players seemed to tame it in 2012, as it ranked as the third-easiest (0.13 under par).

The toughest challenge arrives at 14, a 495-yard par 4. It doglegs left around some of chocolate-drop mounds, and if players stay out of that trouble, they have a better shot at sticking the approach shot on the small green. But they must clear the bunker protection in front. This hole yielded more bogeys than any other last year (75), and averaged 0.16 over par.
From there the pros will see par opportunities at 15, 16, and 17, before arriving at the intriguing final hole. It’s a 530-yard par 5 with pot bunkers positioned smack in the middle of the fairway right where tee shots and second shots want to land. But if you get around those, strokes are there to be dropped. No. 18 saw 14 eagles in 2012 – one by McIlroy in round two – and allowed the second-most birdies. It ranked as the second-easiest hole.

For more information on the tournament go to: www.dbchampionship.com