McIlroy: I'm back on right track
Published 26/05/2014 | 13:02
McIlroy had missed the cut in his last two appearances in the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth and began the week by announcing he had called off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
After turning off his phone and giving away his laptop, McIlroy sought sanctuary inside the ropes and pulled off a remarkable first professional victory on European soil with a closing round of 66 on Sunday.
That lifted the 25-year-old from 10th to sixth in the latest world rankings and boosted his confidence ahead of the year's second major at Pinehurst from June 12-15.
"I think the win at the end of last year in Australia stopped all the questions about equipment and about struggling and a slump and all this stuff," the former world number one said.
"I think this victory here, against a great field, one of the best fields of the year, sort of cements that and shows where my game is and that I'm on the right track again. Hopefully it won't be long before I'm contending in majors and having a chance to win those again."
McIlroy has finished joint eighth in his last two majors, although he never really threatened to win either the 2013 US PGA Championship or the Masters in April.
Both were examples of the "back-door top-10s" he had been racking up this season with good performances over the last 36 or 18 holes, but the two-time major winner knows he will need four strong rounds to add to his collection of the game's biggest titles.
McIlroy was a 16-year-old amateur when New Zealand's Michael Campbell won the last US Open staged at Pinehurst in 2005, although the course has since been restored to how it was intended to play after Donald Ross altered his original design in 1935.
"I can only go on what I've read and what I've heard about Pinehurst because I've never been there," added McIlroy, who won his first major by eight shots in the US Open at Congressional in 2011.
"No rough for a US Open is going to be very different. I hear it's going to be a long, long golf course (7,562 yards), which I'm looking forward to. I don't mind that at all, getting driver in the hand, and a long golf course would suit me.
"Obviously the greens are very tricky at Pinehurst, a lot of run-offs and slopes. I think you're going to have to have everything there. Even without seeing the golf course, I don't think it's going to be a course that's going to suit one type of player or another. You're obviously going to have to be pretty long off the tee, but most of the guys are these days.
"So it will just be about second shots and when you miss greens I think you'll have to be very imaginative. You'll have to bump it into the hills and run it up, and some guys might try and fly it up on top of the greens.
"It will be interesting to see. I'm going to go and take a look at it after the Memorial Tournament."
With 14-time major winner Tiger Woods absent through injury, McIlroy said earlier this season that golf was waiting for a "dominant player" to stamp their authority on the game as Woods did in his prime.
Australian Adam Scott could argue he is that player after extending his stay as world number one with victory in the Crowne Plaza Invitational just hours after McIlroy's at Wentworth, but McIlroy hopes he can answer his own rallying cry.
"I hope so, I definitely hope so," the Northern Irishman added. "I think it's the start of something. I could feel my game sort of bubbling and it was getting there. A win validates that.
"I think the game is waiting for one guy, or one or two guys, just to kick on. I stand by that comment that I'd like to be that guy and I'd like to think that this is a springboard to doing something like that.
"There's still three majors to play this year, a lot of golf left, a lot of big tournaments to try and win. So even though we're nearly halfway through the season, I feel like mine's just beginning."
McIlroy also revealed he had spoken to Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley ahead of his third round at Wentworth, adding: "I was speaking to Paul, just talking about pairings and what he's thinking. It sounded like the way he was talking, even without this win, like I was going to be on the team!
"I'm looking forward to it. We don't get a chance to come back and play in the UK and Ireland very often. It's going to be great. I think I'm pretty much cemented on the team now and looking forward to that."