Thursday 22 February 2018

10 things we learned about Rory McIlroy

1 For McIlroy, sorry wasn't the hardest word!

Karl MacGinty

ALL credit is due to Rory McIlroy. His apology for last Friday's meltdown at the Honda Classic was comprehensive, while his resolve never again to quit on the golf course was convincing.

"No matter how badly I was playing, I should have stayed out there and tried to shoot the best score possible," he said. "I've had a lot of time to think about what happened but I realised pretty quickly it wasn't the right thing to do."

Refreshingly, there was no self-pity, just an earnest effort to explain himself. "At that point in time, I was just all over the place," he said. "Everyone makes mistakes. Some people have the pleasure of making theirs in private but most of mine are in the public eye.

"I'm 23 years old. I'm still learning," McIlroy added. "I regret what I did but it's over now and it won't happen again."

2 Honda blowout was storm before the calm

EVERY faltering step he took this season put McIlroy under ever-increasing pressure to perform, until he blew a gasket on the 18th fairway last Friday at PGA National.

Yet McIlroy insists: "In the long run, I actually think Friday will be a blessing in disguise. It has acted as a release valve and all that pressure I've been putting on myself just went away.

"I'm going to go out there at Doral this week and have some fun. It's not life or death and I'd kind of forgotten that this year."

It all came from within, he insists. "I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform," he said. "It was a build-up of my own high expectations coming off such a great year in 2012.

"Working so hard to continue that form into this year and not being able to do it, I just let it all get to me."

3 megabucks nike switch compounded the pressure

THE Holywood star firmly dismissed any suggestion that his new $20m-a-year deal with Nike and teething problems with the clubs were a factor in Friday's meltdown.

"It's irrelevant what deal I have or what clubs I'm playing," he insisted. "It's about me on the golf course and the expectations and pressure that I put myself under."

McIlroy accepted there were teething troubles last month in Abu Dhabi, where he missed the cut on his first outing of 2012.

"Yet now I know it's just purely the swing. The equipment is fantastic. I have no problems at all," he said.

"When I make a good swing, the ball goes where I want it and the flight is right, so I know it's not that. It's just getting my swing on the right path."

Though he may be comfortable with the clubs and ball, there's no doubt trying to justify the faith and countless millions Nike invested in him compounded the pressure on McIlroy.

4 Ulster ace admits he must get Tiger tough

One of the most telling moments in yesterday's media conference came when McIlroy admitted giving in too easily to adversity on the golf course. His shoulders have slumped too readily in the past.

Last Friday's surrender simply was the last straw.

Asked if he had learned anything about himself, McIlroy said: "I learned that when going gets tough, I've got to stick in there a bit more. I've got to grind it out.

"There's no excuse for quitting and it doesn't set a good example.

"It wasn't good for a whole lot of reasons – for the tournament, the people coming out watching me. I feel like I let a lot of people down and for that I'm very sorry."

5 McDowell's words hold the key for McIlroy

AMONG the first to offer support to McIlroy was good friend Graeme McDowell.

One assumes the astute Portrush player's advice to McIlroy matched his perceptive analysis of the situation in which the gifted youngster found himself.

"Try to prove things to other people and you stop playing for yourself," McDowell commented last Friday. "That is a very dangerous place to be. He's playing to prove things to you guys (media), playing to the nay-sayers and people who said he shouldn't have done what he has done (change clubs)."

McIlroy is determined to make golf fun once again. "I started to play golf because I love it. I really do and I have to remember that," he said.

"When you enjoy your golf, you start to play better. I haven't been enjoying it. This week I'll just go out there and have a good time."

6 Something went wrong with golf's silkiest swing

REVEALING that his swing went off track during the winter, McIlroy said he and coach Michael Bannon have worked tirelessly, especially over the last five days, in an effort to restore it to its former glory. Nearly 30 hours of hand-blistering effort on the range since last Friday yielded the answer ... but bedding it in is going to take some more time.

"We've found it. Now it's just a matter of trying to get comfortable with it, trying to put the club in the right position when I take it away," he explained.

"It feels alien to me right now but the more reps I do, the more comfortable I'm going to get with it. It's still a work in progress so I'm not putting myself under any pressure to perform this week. All I care about is my swing. Get that back on track and the results will follow."

7 McIlroy aimed too high and fell flat on his face

THE greatest mistake McIlroy concedes he made in 2013 was to try and deliver results as he made running repairs on his game ... leading to frustration on both counts.

"Thing is, we knew there was a little bit of a problem, and I was trying to find a balance between getting to the root of it straightaway and at the same time go out and shoot scores," he explained.

"Yet there are no quick fixes. I know if I get my takeway fixed the rest will follow. That has always been the biggest key for my swing and I need to get back to that.

"If I'd knuckled down and decided to get it right, no matter how long it took, no matter how badly I played, results would follow."

8 Privacy and Twitter make strange bedfellows

GROUNDLESS speculation that McIlroy's recent slump might be due to a rocky patch in his relationship with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki has been rubbished by the Ulsterman.

Asked in "anything off the golf course might have contributed to events last week", McIlroy retorted: "Not at all. I've read what's been written.

"Just because I have a bad day on the golf course and Caroline loses a match in Malaysia, it doesn't mean we're breaking up," he added, shaking his head.

"It's sport and, look, I'd rather keep my private life as private as possible.

"Everything on that front is great and I'm looking forward to seeing her next week when she gets to Miami."

Yet sharing some of their tweet-nothings with his one and a half million followers on Twitter adds up to a fairly peculiar way of keeping things 'as private as possible'.

9 The tooth hurt but not enough to drive him off course

THE most damning aspect of last Friday's episode at The Honda probably wasn't McIlroy's capitulation but the fact that he offered two vastly differing reasons for it within the space of an hour.

Admired for the forthright way in which he's faced up to adversity in the past, McIlroy compromised himself by stating on Twitter "a tough day was made impossible by severe tooth pain" less than an hour after telling reporters there'd been no physical reason for his withdrawal.

So which was true? "Both," he said. "I wasn't in a good place with my golf game and my head was all over the place.

"At the same time, I've been struggling with my lower right wisdom tooth for over a year ... the tooth was bothering me, but not enough to quit."

10 Honesty the final word for McIlroy

FEARS that McIlroy might be cowed into silence or banality by recent events were instantly dismissed when he fielded a question about his twitter exchange with Ronan Keating in recent days, specifically the meaning of the hash tag 'FTB' he'd placed on a tweet referring to Friday's meltdown.

More PR-conscious souls in the professional golf arena would have dismissed the question out of hand, but McIlroy met this issue head-on.

"It's a little private joke between friends and something I probably can't divulge on live TV," he said, clearly confirming suspicions those initials stood for 'F*** the begrudgers', a defiant motto which Boyzone star Keating has tattooed on his wrist.

If McIlroy stuck to his guns as resolutely last Friday and hadn't sought refuge behind that aching wisdom tooth, one suspects he'd have won more bouquets than brickbats.

Irish Independent

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