Monday 19 August 2019

Rory McIlroy responds after Jason Day says he 'has the tools to be Tiger-esque' but questions his desire

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland addresses a press conference ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Pebble Beach Golf Links
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland addresses a press conference ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Pebble Beach Golf Links
Competitors play a practice round ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Pebble Beach Golf Links yesterday. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy last night dismissed Jason Day's concern that "desire" is the only thing that can stop him having a Tiger-esque career.

While Jordan Spieth struggles with his putting and Dustin Johnson battles to hold off the rampaging Spaniard Jon Rahm as World No 1, Day admires McIlroy's explosiveness and fearlessness but sees hunger as the Holywood star's biggest challenge as he enters the second half of his career.

"The biggest thing for Rory is the desire part - how much does he really want it - because he has the tools to be Tiger-esque," the Australian (30) said.

"Obviously Tiger is Tiger but to be in the same sentence as Tiger is pretty unique and special to be able to say that.

"I think he has the ability to go out and win more Majors than he has right now and I am sure that's what he wants to do."

While he has millions in the bank and four Majors on the sideboard at his luxurious Florida home, McIlroy was adamant on hearing about Day's well-meaning remarks that he is more hungry than ever to be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time.

But he also admitted that he felt so dejected after last year's winless and injury-hit season that he vowed to make the next decade the best of his career.

"I'm feeling a lot different in myself because I feel like it's the start of something and not the end of something," he said of his mood this week compared to how he felt before shutting down for three months after the Alfred Dunhill Links last October.

"I was just sort of ready to call it quits for the year after the Dunhill. But with how I was sort of dejected and wanting to get away from it I was then, to how rejuvenated and optimistic I am now, it feels a lot different that way."

With $36.5m earned on the PGA Tour alone, McIlroy (28) is not motivated by money.

"It's different," he said of life as the man who has just about everything compared to the 21-year old who missed the cut in his only Pebble Beach appearance in the 2010 US Open.

Desire is not the issue.

"I certainly want it. There's no doubt about that," he said. "I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game when I decide to call it a day.

"And I know with the right dedication and working on the right things that could be achievable for me. So, yeah, there was a little bit of, I don't want to say a refocus over the last few months, but just a recalibration of what I need to do to be at that level.

"And, yeah, I think I have a great window of opportunity over the next 10, 12 years to play great golf and to leave my mark on the game, I guess.

"But, yeah, there's some other great players and everyone has chances to win every week and the fields are getting so much deeper, so it's just about putting yourself in the position and the more you do that, the more comfortable you are in that scenario.

"So, the desire is definitely there. Look, like everyone sitting up here in front of you guys that plays the PGA TOUR has a very comfortable life, so that's not an excuse in any way.

"That's not the reason that I'm out here to play, I've got everything I need. It's just about gathering trophies and trying to be the best golfer that I can be."

Paired with his father Gerry opposite Phil Mickelson at Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Pebble Beach for the next three days, he is one of six Irishmen in the field Paul Dunne is playing on a sponsor's exemption while Seamus Power, Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell are all hungry for FedExCup points.

Encouraged by his start to the season in the Middle East, where he was tied third in Abu Dhabi and runner-up in the Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy simply wants to put himself in contention as often as possible before the Masters.

"If anything, they were just two good confidence builders going into this part of the season and now that I'm over here in the States I've got six weeks out of the next seven to try and play well and give myself chances to win," he said.

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