WORLD OF GOLF: Can Nappy Factor help end Rory McIlroy’s lengthy Grand Slam wait at the Masters?

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WORLD OF GOLF: Can Nappy Factor help end Rory McIlroy’s lengthy Grand Slam wait at the Masters?

  • Rory McIlroy could be a beneficiary of Nappy Factor when his daughter is born
  • Keith Elliott says golfers are given a fresh perspective once they become fathers
  • Bryson DeChambeau found new fathers have abnormally high win percentage
  • The arrival of McIlroy’s first child could help remove mental block at the Masters 

In the restless search for the missing piece that will free the mind of Rory McIlroy and allow him to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the Masters, the best-selling golf author Keith Elliott has always been consistent.

We enjoy a regular correspondence and his emails usually end with the same plaintive refrain: ‘When is Rory going to become a father that will make all the difference?’

With the happy event now imminent, Elliott’s long-held theory regarding the mental boost that golfers receive when they become parents – the Nappy Factor he called it – is about to be put to a very high-profile test.

The arrival of Rory McIlroy's first child could help give the Irishman a mental boost

The arrival of Rory McIlroy’s first child could help give the Irishman a mental boost

The evidence is persuasive enough to have exercised the mind of the ultimate geek, Bryson DeChambeau. The mad scientist disclosed recently to fellow pro Andrew Landry that he had worked out the percentage win rate for new fathers – of course he did – and it was abnormally high.

Sadly, Landry didn’t disclose what the rate was in relaying the conversation, but the mechanics are sound enough. The thing that kills golfers is all the time they have between shots to think, combined with the burden of expectation.

What better way to douse both than the perspective that follows becoming a parent? Augusta witnessed a prime example just four years ago. Danny Willett arrived only 11 days after his wife had given birth, and freewheeled all the way into a green jacket.

Bryson DeChambeau's research suggests the win rate for new fathers is abnormally high

Bryson DeChambeau’s research suggests the win rate for new fathers is abnormally high

The ultimate specimen is the greatest golfer of all, Jack Nicklaus, who became a father at the age of just 22, and would have five children. In other words, he had golf in perspective his entire career, which helps to explain his longevity. ‘Jack plays golf in his spare time,’ his great friend Lee Trevino used to say. What a wonderful frame of mind to take into majors. No wonder Jack did all right in them.

And how about Ian Poulter and Webb Simpson? Relative to natural ability, they might be the two biggest over-achievers in the modern game. They also have nine kids between them.

Of course, it doesn’t always work. The joy of becoming a father can take away a player’s competitive edge. Graeme McDowell’s ferocious practice ethic dulled when he became a parent, and he lost his way for a while.

Will it help Rory? When a golfer playing as well as he has going into several majors in the last two years fails to perform, there’s obviously a mental block. Now, in slots where they wouldn’t normally be, the man who will have a baby girl to occupy his mind has got a US Open in two weeks and a Masters in two months.

Sounds like auspicious timing to me.

ENCORE FOR RAHM VS DUSTIN 

The duel between Spaniard Jon Rahm and American Dustin Johnson on Sunday night was so stupendous it seems only fitting they should have an encore this week with the FedEx Cup finale and the not-so-small matter of a $15million bonus.

Rahm thought he’d won the BMW Championship in Chicago in regulation play, only for Johnson to hole a 45ft birdie putt at the 18th to force extra-time. Rahm then drained an even more improbable putt from 66ft on the same green to win at the first extra hole. And so we have world No 1 Johnson and No 2 Rahm on top of the pile going into the final event beginning on Friday at beautiful East Lake, Atlanta. 

Johnson starts with a two-shot advantage to reflect his superior play over the first two play-off events (he has finished first and second), while world No 3 Justin Thomas will begin in third, three shots behind. Such is the form of the top two, it’s hard to think anyone outside this trio will get a look-in. It would be hard enough with a level playing field, let alone giving them shots.

The duel between Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson was stupendous at the BMW Championship

The duel between Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson was stupendous at the BMW Championship

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, if he plays, will start seven behind. Tyrrell Hatton, the only other UK player to finish in the top 30 who qualified, will begin eight back. He will start, though, with a little spring in his step, and not just for making it to East Lake for the first time, with its many privileges including eligibility for all the majors and big events next year, plus a guaranteed six-figure pay day.

Of the 10 Englishmen in the top 60 of the world rankings, he is the leader of the pack for the first time. There are five in the top 21, and the fact the three twentysomethings in Hatton (15th), Tommy Fleetwood (16th) and Matt Fitzpatrick (17th) are narrowly ahead of two fortysomethings in Justin Rose (19th) and Paul Casey (21st) is perhaps indicative of an inexorable changing of the guard.

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