McIlroy learning from 'mistake'
Published 26/02/2014 | 15:47
McIlroy was defending champion last year when he walked off the course midway through his second round, initially telling reporters he was in a "bad place mentally" before citing toothache as the cause of his early exit.
The 24-year-old subsequently apologised for the incident and admitted he should have battled through the bad form which blighted most of last year following his multi-million pound switch to Nike.
It took McIlroy until December to register his only win of the season, but the two-time major winner has shown glimpses of his best form already this year - despite a second-round exit from the WGC-Accenture Match Play last week - and can also enjoy some home comforts this week having bought a house in Palm Beach.
"Golf can be a frustrating game and emotionally tough. What's important, though, is that I've learned from that episode. I need to stay patient and play my way through the difficult patches.
"I had to mature, and I did. And through the lean times it was important to remind myself that it was my love of golf that secured my position as number one in the world. That passion for the game is something I'm really enjoying again."
McIlroy has also vowed to keep showing such passion on and off the course, where his candour is appreciated if not always wise. For example, he blasted golf's "stupid rules" after correctly being given a two-shot penalty for an incorrect drop in the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
"I think people have warmed to me for who I am, for the honesty I display on and off the course," McIlroy added. "I'm learning to take the rough with the smooth, too.
"It simply wouldn't be me if I couldn't show elation after a win or disappointment when things haven't exactly gone to plan. You get what you see.
"I don't think I'm an isolated example of a golfer who's happy when he's playing well and frustrated when he's not. It's really just the way things are. But winning, knowing my game is in good order and being fit really keeps me positive.
"I do get upset sometimes, however, when I'm personally criticised for not playing well enough. I respect the opinions of those close to me - whether family, friends or media - but uninformed or meaningless attacks are a little less easy to swallow."
The world number eight admitted he spent more time dealing with lawyers last year than he hopes to for the rest of his career, but feels he was right to leave both of his previous management companies.
"I'm not sure if regret is the right term for management changes," added McIlroy, who is still embroiled in a legal dispute with Horizon Sports. "I saw my future differently in each case and decided accordingly.
"Management teams often have to consider other players in their camp when decisions are being made, and I think I outgrew that. I won't pretend everything in the future will be smooth sailing because obstacles will always present themselves and there will be highs and lows.
"Now that the decisions rest with me, though, I'll have to take the poor ones on the chin."
Jason Day, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are the players to miss out, with Day taking a break after his WGC-Accenture victory which lifted him to a career-high fourth in the rankings, while Rose is again struggling with a shoulder injury.