What a difference a year makes. Just ask Rory McIlroy.
Rewind to September 2012 and the 23-year-old phenom had just won the BMW Championship in Indianapolis, his second consecutive FedEx Cup playoff victory, becoming the first player to win four times on Tour since Tiger Woods seven years earlier.
Having started 2013 as the world's No. 1 golfer, poised to build on one of the most lucrative campaigns in the sport's history, it will come as no surprise that McIlroy didn't expect to be slamming his trunk a week early.
""If someone had asked me at the start of the year, would you be more surprised at not winning a major or not getting to the Tour Championship, of course I would have said the latter," said McIlroy, whose opening rounds of 77 and 78 dropped him to dead last halfway through the 2013 BMW Championship and sunk his hopes of advancing to East Lake. "The majors are based on one week, four times a year when a lot of things have to go your way. But over the course of the season, I feel like I should be able to play well enough to get to East Lake. I didn't expect to be in this position."
McIlroy earned just one Top 5 finish this season (second at the Valero Texas Open), and as ESPN.com's Bob Harig reported, any number of factors -- including controversial club changes and romance in the public eye -- could be to blame.
With the new 2013-2014 Tour schedule, McIlroy's road to the 2014 Tour Championship could start sooner than you think, so at least he'll have a week's head start to figure it out.
(Photo: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images)