Wednesday 23 October 2019

'I feel older than 30' says Rory McIlroy ahead of Wells Fargo test

McIlroy: "I still feel like one of the younger guys, but in my mind, I don’t know what age I really am." Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy turns 30 on Saturday, but admits he feels far older mentally as he chases his third win at Quail Hollow and a quick cure for his Masters hangover in the Wells Fargo Championship.

The Co Down man remains convinced that the mental game remains key to him ending his near five-year Major drought.

But while he sees Masters champion Tiger Woods (43) contending for victories at Augusta for another 10 years, he all but conceded that he feels far older than 30 in his head.

"I played a practice round with Sam Saunders yesterday and he's 31 with two kids, one of 10 and one of five," he said.

"I am not quite at that stage yet but this life, it makes you grow up quickly. I still feel like one of the younger guys, but in my mind, I don't know what age I really am.

"I was here when was I was 20 and winning at Quail Hollow. It doesn't feel like 10 years ago. I am definitely older (in my mind)."

The world No 4, who is joined at Quail Hollow by Seamus Power and Pádraig Harrington, was enthralled by Woods' comeback from injury and scandal to win the Masters.

"I felt like I was a 10-year-old kid again watching Tiger win the Masters like he did, I feel like, every year that I watched it," he admitted in a podcast scheduled for release tomorrow.

Yesterday, he added: "I had lunch with him in Jupiter in March 2017, when he was just coming off the back of another surgery. All he was thinking about was quality of life, watching his kids grow up, being able to play soccer in the backyard.

"His mind wasn't even on golf, which sort of told me he's sort of thinking, this could be it!

"To think in two years what's happened, it's incredible. It's a big deal to come back from what he had.

"It just shows he's gritty. He's determined. It was awesome to see. It's great for our game in general. It was a great day."

While he sounded less convinced that Woods could get back to his form of old, he still expects him to be a factor in Majors.

"He is competitive and he is going to be up there," he said, when asked if the Holy Grail of 19 Major wins was a possibility again.

"I guess it rejuvenates that narrative. A lot of people were comparing it to Jack (Nicklaus) in '86 and everyone knew that was going to be Jack's last Major championship.

"Tiger could be competitive at Augusta for the next 10 years if his body holds up. So yeah."

Woods' intimidation factor remains strong, as McIlroy explained in a teaser for the Rory and Carson Podcast podcast that will be aired by tomorrow.

Asked if Woods was deliberately trying to psyche out Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari after they had found water at the par-three 12th at Augusta by standing conspicuously in their peripheral vision, McIlroy told host Carson Daly: "Oh yeah, 100pc.

"He knows that he intimidates people - 'I am going to make you feel my presence'."

On the European Tour, world No 39 Li Haotong is the man to beat in the Volvo China Open, where Greystones' Paul Dunne is the only Irishman in action.

In Spain, Ruaidhrí McGee, Michael Hoey, Paul McBride, Cormac Sharvin, Robin Dawson and Daniel Peacock will be trying to end a five-year drought for Irish golf on the Challenge Tour in Challenge de Espana.

Volvo China Open, Live

Sky Sports, 7.30am

Wells Fargo Championship, Live

Sky Sports, 7pm

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