EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 10, 2013

Trying to be Tiger-proof

McIlroy rediscovers his game in time for Masters

By David Scott
The Charlotte Observer

---- — AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy is offering no excuses. The equipment he’s playing with is fine. His swing is fine. Even his tooth is fine.

And that’s enough for him to feel very good about his chances this week at the Masters.

“Anything less than a win be a disappointment,” said McIlroy. “It would be. Every time you come to Augusta, you’re wanting to win that green jacket. And every time you don’t, it’s another chance missed.”

As the world’s second-ranked player, McIlroy is in the conversation as one of the favorites for the Masters, which begins Thursday. But it’s been an odd kind of year for McIlroy, who took an unplanned detour to the Texas Open last week in an attempt to rediscover a game that seemed to be abandoning him earlier.

It was a good move for McIlroy, who shot a final-round 66 to finish second behind Martin Laird.

“I got what I wanted out of it in terms of playing more competitive golf, getting the scorecard in my hand, shooting scores,” said McIlroy. “I think a bonus was getting into contention. And how I played when I got into contention was pleasing.”

Being that high on the leaderboard was a welcome change for McIlroy. After rising to the top spot in the world rankings in 2012 – a year that included him winning his second major, the PGA Championship – his 2013 season started out poorly.

Playing with unfamiliar equipment from his new sponsor Nike, McIlroy stumbled early, missing the cut at a tournament in Abu Dhabi, losing in the first round of the World Golf Match Play Championships, then withdrawing from the Honda Classic after complaining of a toothache.

That was followed by a tie for eighth at Doral and then a 45th at the Houston Open.

McIlroy wasn’t happy with his game. Specifically, he wasn’t happy with his swing. So he canceled a humanitarian trip to Haiti last week and instead headed to San Antonio.

“I’ve gone through these sort of patches before where I haven’t played so well and the game feels quite far away,” said McIlroy, who committed yesterday to play in May’s Wells Fargo Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club. “Then something clicks and all of a sudden it’s back again.

“When I don’t play my best, it’s when I get into bad habits in my golf swing. Whenever my golf swing is where I want it to be, that’s when I’ve produced results.”

So McIlroy isn’t blaming the equipment.

“I’m very comfortable with it,” he said.

He isn’t blaming his tooth, which he will have extracted in June.

“It’s better,” he said.

The Masters might not be a great place from which to bounce back for McIlroy, though. He was the third-round leader in 2011 before coming undone on Sunday with an 80. Last year, his weekend rounds of 77-76 dropped him to 40th-place finish.

McIlroy said he has forgotten about all that.

“The demons are gone,” he said. “They were gone as soon as I got off the 18th green. I have no ill memories of this place. I absolutely adore the golf course.”