Time is important...I had to learn to say no – McIlroy
RORY McILROY'S new deal with Nike will make him one of the richest sportsmen in history ... yet time has become just as precious to Irish golf's world No 1.
Especially when he gets the opportunity to spend it as he did last week in Sofia, cheering on girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki as she fought her way into the final of the WTA's Tournament of Champions.
Before getting 'back to work' early today in the first round of the $6m Singapore Open, McIlroy explained how important it is for him occasionally to escape the pressure of elite golf.
The 23-year-old also revealed how he plans to trim his playing schedule in 2013, an aspiration he shares with his good friend and greatest rival, Tiger Woods.
Asked if watching Wozniacki in Bulgaria helped him forget the day job, McIlroy enthusiastically replied: "It always does. I need those weeks where I just can escape from this ... from my life.
"I completely forget where I am and what I do. Those weeks are very helpful for me.
"To some guys out here, golf is everything. Of course it's my life too and I know I'm very lucky, but sometimes you also need to step away from it, and spending time with Caroline helps me do that."
Like Tiger, whom he played in an 18-hole exhibition at Lake Jinsha last Monday week, McIlroy was chided for not staying in China for the $7m HSBC Champions.
He answered this criticism by saying: "It was a tough event to miss but you can't play every week. If I did, I'd have finished the season with five in a row and, after the Ryder Cup, Turkey and all that FedEx Cup stuff, it'd just be too much.
"Managing time is a very important part of my life and I've learned to do it a little better.
"After winning the US Open in 2011, people wanted me to do more and more things and I had to learn to say no.
"You have to be selfish sometimes and look after yourself. It doesn't make you a bad person. You can't make everyone happy so you must put yourself first. Fortunately, I can dictate where I want to play, what I want to do and where I want to go."
Over the next three weeks, McIlroy will wrap up the Race to Dubai and emulate Luke Donald's historic feat in 2011 of topping the money lists in America and Europe in the same year ... finishing first or second in Singapore on Sunday would clinch it.
A record-shattering second Major victory at the US PGA is chief among the four victories and €10m prize money McIlroy amassed in 2012, and he said: "I've achieved all my goals this year."
It shouldn't be difficult to trim three events off McIlroy's 26 in 2012, especially as this figure includes the Ryder Cup and October's unofficial, one-off outing in Turkey.
And McIlroy still could add in Arnie Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational, which would buttress his pre-Masters rota, while the run-up to June's US Open would look less cluttered without the St Jude Classic.
His 2012 schedule will open with Abu Dhabi and, maybe, Dubai. Accenture Match Play, Honda, Doral and Bay Hill should bring him through March into early April, followed by The Masters.
Quail Hollow is heaven for McIlroy but if Sawgrass (The Players) and Wentworth (BMW PGA) are not, both showpieces are tough to drop.
Memorial, the US Open and Irish Open look obvious in June; then the British Open in July, while August's Bridgestone and US PGA lead into the four FedEx Cup play-offs.
McIlroy will perm any three of the four tournaments which bring the 2013 European season to a climax -- BMW Masters, HSBC Champions, the new Turkish Open and DP World Championship. That makes 23 ... not a bad year's work!
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