Rory McIlroy feels 'very close' to his first victory of the year
Tournament host Rory McIlroy believes a "negative spin" is being put on his results this season as he seeks a first win of the year in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The 27-year-old is the only member of the world's top five without a victory in 2016 and has slipped more than four points behind number one Jason Day in the rankings after the Australian's seventh win in his last 17 events in the Players Championship.
However, McIlroy believes he is close to claiming his first title since the DP World Tour Championship in November last year after recording six top-10 finishes from 10 events.
"It frustrates me I guess the negative spin that's being put on it," said McIlroy, who finished 12th at Sawgrass on Sunday.
"I know expectations for myself are higher than other players, but you look at my record this year with a third in Abu Dhabi, a sixth in Dubai, a third at Doral, fourth in the Match Play - my bad weeks are top-10s basically.
" So it frustrates me that the narrative is, 'There's something missing in Rory's game' or, 'What's wrong with Rory?' I don't feel like there's anything wrong. It's very close. It's not as far away as I feel some people think it is.
" I feel very comfortable with where my game is at and I know that if I go out and play my best or close to my best, that I'm going to have a great chance to win this week, next week, basically all season, because I'm in a really good place with where my game is. It just hasn't quite happened yet and I'm trying to stay as patient as possible.
"But sometimes that's hard to do when you feel like you're playing really well but the results aren't quite there. So I just need to string four good rounds together in a tournament and I feel like from there I'll be off and running and that could be the catapult and stepping stone to another great season."
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes McIlroy's issues stem from lapses in concentration during tournaments, a topic also discussed by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson during a Q&A with McIlroy in Dublin on Tuesday.
"W e had a good chat beforehand," McIlroy added. "We spent maybe 45 minutes to an hour beforehand in the green room just chatting about a few things.
"There's a balance to be struck with intensity, especially in a stroke-play tournament. You can't be too intense the whole time. It just doesn't happen. But for an 18-hole match play match or round, you can be.
" But it's still great to hear about it and hear about different techniques he used to get the guys going and motivated. It's always nice to hear stories from people that are at the top level, but in a completely different world than we are."
McIlroy has missed the cut in the Irish Open for the last three years and has recorded just two top-10 finishes in nine attempts, with his best result a seventh place in his first full year as a professional in 2008.
But as well as believing his game is in good shape, the four-time major winner feels he learnt a lot from his first year as tournament host at Royal County Down.
"I think there were times where I spread myself a little bit too thin last year with a lot of commitments and we've tried to scale that back a little bit this year," he added.
"The Q&A was one of the biggest things I had to do, but once the tournament starts I really don't have many other commitments, so I'm trying to really focus on the tournament.
"We're here to try and raise as much money as we possibly can for three local charities in the Dublin area, but also it's a tournament that I desperately would love to win one day.
" It would be huge. I think anyone that plays professional golf, they dream of winning their home open. You don't get very many opportunities to do it, so it would be very special. It's definitely one tournament that is missing from my CV that I would love to add."