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PGA Tour Confidential: Is Rory McIlroy Running Out of Time?

Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy walks off the eighth green at the Shell Houston Open on Sunday in which he shot 70. McIlroy is playing this week in San Antonio to prepare for the Masters.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Rory McIlroy barely made the cut in Houston and decided over lunch with his caddie to add San Antonio to his schedule next week. Why add San Antonio and not Bay Hill or Tampa, and do you still consider McIlroy a serious contender at the Masters next week?

Shane O'Donoghue, CNN Living Golf: I spoke with Rory when he arrived here in San Antonio and he's in great spirits. Everything is in place with his swing and he is very happy with how he's striking the ball. Course management is the only issue and he's aware of it. Between himself and his loyal bagman J.P. Fitzgerald, it's the only aspect that needs attention. The bottom line is that he needs more competitive play, hence the late decision to play the Valero Texas Open.

His coach Michael Bannon is not here this week, as further proof that all the recent work on his game has been beneficial. He now just needs to golf his ball and have a scorecard in his back pocket. Neither the Arnold Palmer Invitational nor Tampa were ever in his schedule and he steadfastly refused to change until that moment on Friday at Houston when, having made the cut, he recognised the need to get another event in before Augusta. Rory's not perfect, he makes mistakes like the rest of us and learns from them.

The bottom line is that he was not fully ready for the start of the season and with the hoopla over the Nike deal, the inevitable scrutiny and imperfect start to the season he felt under pressure. Only he can hit the shots and like last year, when he had a midseason slump, it became clear that he needed to work harder. He's struggled this year and, like Texas' most famous golfing son Ben Hogan always advised, you have to 'dig it out of the dirt' and that's what we're seeing here. Is it too late to be ready for the Masters? Quite possibly, but we are certainly witnessing a turnaround in Rory's form and that augurs well for the long season ahead.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Obviously Rory should have played more in February and March, but I give him credit for not being obstinate about it and making this schedule change at the last minute. Still, Augusta National is not a place where you can find confidence -- you better have it when you show up. It’s hard to imagine Rory can turn it all around in one week on the quirky TPC San Antonio, but he’s such a streaky feel player you can’t entirely count him out. I’d love to see him put together four low rounds just to add more intrigue to the Masters run-up.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: He's playing Texas because he needs rounds. I applaud him for his flexibility. He is certainly a contender. He's the kind who can turn it around quickly

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: His season has been nothing but turbulent and it continues with this late add of San Antonio. He's freewheeling it, which is fun, but it inspires little confidence. I doubt he does much more than make the cut at Augusta.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Presumably he was more optimistic about his progress and didn't think he needed the extra event when Bay Hill and Tampa passed by on the schedule. It would be a brave or foolish man who would dismiss him as a serious contender at Augusta.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, He’s absolutely a serious contender. He seems to have found some game after being totally lost for the first part of the season. Remember, something clicked for him a week before the PGA last year. It could easily happen again this week.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Rory's late schedule addition reeks of desperation, and for that reason it is hard to take him seriously at the Masters. And I think he's in for a surprise when he gets to San Antonio. That's not the most popular course on Tour, and if the wind starts howling (we're talking Texas in April), it could turn into a lost week.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, It's easy to forget that before storming to the PGA and the No. 1 ranking late last year, McIlroy looked lost for several weeks last summer. So you can't totally rule out his chances of quickly getting locked in again and winning the Masters. That said, he's not one of my top 10 picks to win this green jacket, where he's never had a top-10 finish.

Stephanie Wei, When Rory came off the golf course on Friday, he told us that he wasn't going to play in it, so it was clearly an eleventh-hour decision. I think he realized that he needed more competitive rounds under his belt -- which I'd agree with. He was actually swinging it quite nicely this week, but like he said, he didn't score. His short game also looked great, so if he has a solid week in San Antonio and gains more confidence, I don't see why he won't be a contender at the Masters.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: As we've seen many times, these guys are so good they can find their games in a week. McIlroy can turn it around, just like he did last summer when he went into a brief slump. I think his equipment issues and switching to a different ball will impact his feel shots just enough to be a factor at Augusta. So yes, Rory can contend at Augusta, but I'm not putting any money on him.

2. The "Dufnering" craze took off when Deadspin posted a photo of Jason Dufner looking out of it at a classroom charity appearance, and Keegan Bradley tweeted it to his followers. What quirky personalities from golf history would have become social media stars like Dufner if they were playing today?

Morfit: If Trevino had had Twitter he could've ruled the world. Tom Weiskopf would've brought the heat on Twitter. Jerry Pate would've been prolific.

Reiterman: There would have been a thousand GIFs and YouTube videos of Tommy Bolt breaking stuff and having temper tantrums.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Doug Sanders and his long-lost son Jesper Parnevik. There are some good stories about Lloyd Mangrum. Snead knew how to work the public. Trevino.

O'Donoghue: Can you imagine how funny David Feherty would have been had twitter been around during his playing days. Always quick with a sound byte that was manna from heaven for the press corps, he would have been hilarious to follow back in the '80s. If Poulter is one of the most popular tweeters today, then you'd have to think that dandies like Jimmy Demaret and latterly Doug Sanders would have embraced social media in the way that they embraced socializing

Bamberger: Jan Stephenson. A goddess. Or so the 1970s LPGA marketing department would have you believe.

Van Sickle: There's no doubt that Sam Snead would've been Boo Weekley squared. His hillbilly image would've played really well and Sam and his pal Freddie Corcoran would've been smart enough to play that up. Jimmy Demaret was quite a personality in his day. He liked people and that would've come across. I don't think Ben Hogan would've been tweeting, however. And if he did, his only tweet would've been, "You're away."

Shipnuck: Seve would have been awesome, he was so spiky and uncensored. Outsized characters like Walter Hagen, Doug Sanders and Jimmy Demaret would have killed. Payne Stewart was a preeminent trash-talker and would’ve stirred the pot like his buddy Paul Azinger does. Lee Trevino for the one-liners. Mac O’Grady for sheer lunacy. And Bobby Jones for his graceful, erudite observations.

Godich: Chi-Chi Rodriguez was quite the showman. I'm sure he would have been a Twitter star.

Ritter: Chi-Chi might've set all social media on fire.

Lynch: The glory days of the hard-living, louche Tour pro have never seemed farther away. Whatever old time pros might have been doing against the wall, it wasn't "Dufnering." But I'd still love to see what Arnie might have Tweeted about his off-course life.

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