McIlroy eyeing Valhalla victory
Published 05/08/2014 | 18:00
He has won his last two events, is back on top of the world rankings and is rated a 5/1 favourite to make it three wins in succession with a second US PGA Championship title at Valhalla this week.
But Rory McIlroy will not be paying any attention to the hype surrounding his brilliant run of form, which saw him claim the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and follow that with a first World Golf Championship victory in the Bridgestone Invitational.
The 25-year-old's stellar play at Firestone Country Club had Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley eulogising about the "best exhibition of driving I have ever seen" and predicting McIlroy could be on his way to dominating the game as Tiger Woods did in his prime.
And with doubts increasing over Woods' longevity after he pulled out of the Bridgestone midway through the final round with more back trouble, McGinley is not the only one talking about the start of 'Rory's era'.
"I don't really know how to answer that," McIlroy told his pre-tournament press conference at Valhalla. "Of course I've heard it and I've read it.
"Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions and jump on the bandwagon and jump on certain things.
"I've had a great run of golf and I've played well over the past few months. I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and become one of the dominant players in the game.
"I felt like I had the ability to do that and it's just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel like I should be, which is near the top of the world rankings and competing in majors and winning golf tournaments.
"I'm not necessarily sure you can call that an era or the start of an era, but I'm just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible.
"People can say what they want to say, that's fine. But I can't read too much into it.
"I just need to continue to practice hard and play well and try not to read too much of the stuff that's being written, because if you read everything that was being written, I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament."
That last comment was said with a smile and McIlroy added: "I don't think it's productive at all to read anything about yourself. I try not to. Obviously it's hard to stay away from everything, but I try to limit it as much as I can for sure."
McIlroy also plans to limit his recent weight gains caused by working out in the gym, the Northern Irishman acknowledging he certainly does not need to hit the ball any further.
He led the field in driving distance (334.8 yards) in Akron - also finishing joint first in greens in regulation at 79.17 per cent - and is perhaps wary of the role too much gym work may have contributed to the injury problems suffered by Nike stablemate Woods.
"I'm definitely hitting it longer over the past couple of years. I've started to work harder in the gym and I've got stronger in certain areas of my body which I needed to," McIlroy added.
"I've always had the speed and I've always had the power, but I haven't really had maybe the strength or the stability to hold on to it my whole way through the swing.
"I've put on three kilograms of muscle in the last eight weeks, so that definitely helps. I'm the heaviest I've ever been (12st 4lb). But does that mean I want to get heavier and try to put on more distance? I don't feel like I need to.
"If I can hit it over 300 yards and in the fairway most of the time, I'm happy enough with that. That gives me plenty of opportunities to hit it close to flags and try and make birdies."
Plenty of birdies are likely to be necessary at Valhalla this week, with Woods and Bob May finishing tied on 18 under par the last time the US PGA was held here in 2000.
McIlroy was just 11 years old at the time but remembers watching it on TV, along with the 2008 Ryder Cup at the same venue, but will have just two days to get to know the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout for himself.
"I gave myself the day off yesterday, which I felt like I needed, just to recharge a little bit," he added.
"Emotionally and mentally it's more fatiguing after you win tournaments than it is physically. So just to give your brain and your head a day to rest is a good thing.
"Having all these tournaments sort of go back-to-back gives you less time to think about it. You just get straight back into it and you try to prepare the best you can.
"I'll just try and play golf similar to what I've played the last few weeks."