Sunday 25 September 2016

Rory McIlroy set to come out all guns blazing at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Phil Casey

Published 16/03/2016 | 20:25

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will revert to his usual aggressive approach in the Arnold Palmer Invitational as he looks to bounce back from squandering a four-shot lead in his last event.

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McIlroy took a three-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship 10 days ago and moved another stroke clear when nearest challengers Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson both made early mistakes.

However, the world number two then paid the price for an overly conservative strategy and struggled to a closing 74 as Scott recovered from a six-shot deficit to win his second tournament in succession.

It was the first time McIlroy had failed to convert a lead of three shots or more after 54 holes since collapsing to a closing 80 in the 2011 Masters, but the 26-year-old believes he has learnt from the experience.

"It was a tough one because if I go out there, I shoot 71, I win the golf tournament," McIlroy told his pre-tournament press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which will have a prize fund of USD 8.7 million from 2017, an increase of USD 2.4 million.

"Doral is a tough place with the wind to play with the lead because there's danger lurking around every corner and if you're going to make mistakes, you're conscious of limiting it to a shot.

"I played the way I thought I needed to play, I just didn't hit close enough. I didn't have a realistic birdie chance inside 25 feet until the 12th hole. I was playing smart and hitting it to 30 feet but you're not going to make birdies, you're not going to gain ground on the field by doing that.

"Three bogeys on a day like that wasn't too bad but to only make one birdie I felt was my downfall and if I had to take it back, I would have played a little bit more aggressively."

Scott had finished second in the Northern Trust Open before winning the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship and now hopes he can keep such form going for the Masters in three weeks' time.

"You have got to take advantage of it while it's there," said Scott, who won a green jacket at Augusta National in 2013. "That's the big thing and obviously I feel confident I can play well this week.

"Nothing feels any different than when I left Doral and I'd like to get myself in that position to win again this week and keep it running. Tiger (Woods) kept running for about 10 years, so I've got a couple more weeks in me! Hopefully I haven't peaked too early."

Scott's fellow Australian Matt Every is seeking a third straight victory at Bay Hill to become only the fifth player in the last four decades to win the same PGA Tour event three years in succession.

However, the 32-year-old has struggled since his victory in 2015 and revealed he has been "blacking out" on certain shots on the course.

"After I won here last year I went through this, I guess, a funk... kind of like blacking out over the ball," Every said. "I hit these foul balls with my driver and you just can't compete out here when you're reloading on the tee and then that stuff builds up. You hit one and then it's in your head and it's hard to forget them.

"Scar tissue builds up. I would get over it and think, 'What am I even doing over the ball?' You freeze over it and you tense up and it's hard to release the club when you're doing that."

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