McIlroy had to learn to believe he's worthy of his success
Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30
Rory McIlroy admits that sometimes he has to pinch himself at the way his life has turned out - and also that he used to feel slightly guilty about it.
A child golfing prodigy and later a multi-title winner at amateur level, the Holywood native strode into the world of professional golf in 2007 bearing all the hallmarks of a 'Special One'.
Just over eight years and four Major titles later, McIlroy has justified all the predictions about the impact he would make in his chosen sport.
His earnings are estimated at over €45 million, and though he is currently third in the world golf rankings, he spent a total of 95 weeks at number one since he first reached that pinnacle on March 4, 2012.
All the more interesting, then, to hear McIlroy reveal that he had to come to terms within himself with all of this success.
Speaking to the media at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, McIlroy said he had emerged from that period of self-reflection with an appropriate sense of ruthlessness and belief that he deserves all that he has achieved.
"There's a transitional period from being a teenager getting out on Tour to your early twenties, and you're still sort of discovering yourself, and sort of knowing who you are and what you are.
"Somewhere in that time period, I learned that it's okay to be a winner. It's okay to be selfish at times. It's okay to do these things. That's the reason that we work hard is to try and win these tournaments," said McIlroy.
That said, he can still get the occasional pang of wondering at the seeming ease with which he progressed to the elite level of world golf.
"I still get those feelings of - I don't want to say I have guilt - but sometimes I feel like I haven't had to work as hard to get to where I am as some other people. I don't know if that's guilt or if that's questioning why is that me? Why am I the one that feels this way.?
"But I feel now that I definitely have got a ruthlessness on the course that I maybe didn't have a few years ago," he said.
The Northern Irishman had a late tee-time for round two of the tournament, and before McIlroy had hit a shot, Jordan Spieth was making plans to return home.
Nobody was more shocked than Spieth that he shot an eight-over par 79 in round one on Riviera, a course he has played many times, and it left him with too much ground to make up in round two.
Spieth had spoken of his belief that a nine-under-par round was within his capabilities.
Instead, he failed to get into a scoring groove, despite an encouraging hat-trick of birdies on the last three holes of his opening nine, the 16th, 17th and 18th.
"I'm just searching for something" he told an on-course TV reporter. That 'something' remained elusive, and Spieth failed to qualify for the weekend.
The world No 1 shot a 68 (-3) for a five-over par 147 total. At the other end of the leaderboard, Dustin Johnson, runner-up in 2014 and '15, was joint clubhouse leader with Troy Merritt on eight-under par.
Live, Sky Sports 4, 3.0am
Northern Trust Open
Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.0pm