McIlroy only ‘minor tweaks’ away from returning to winning ways

Adam McKendry

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Adam McKendry

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Rory McIlroy believes his game needs only ‘minor tweaks’ to get him back into the winner’s circle again after his final hole collapse at the Dubai Desert Classic.

The World No.5 held a share of the lead at Emirates Golf Club going down the par-five 18th but, playing aggressively trying to go for the win without needing a play-off, he flared his second shot well short and well right and into the water.

A par would have taken him into the play-off with eventual winner Viktor Hovland and Richard Bland, but instead he took a bogey and missed out, but McIlroy insists he hasn’t undergone any soul searching since and claims he’s not far away from turning that into more silverware.

“Obviously the end of that tournament in Dubai was disappointing, I made a bad swing at a bad time, but I did a lot of really good things in there that I can’t forget about,” said the 32-year-old.

“I try to just focus on the couple negatives that were there and tried to work on those last week and felt like I’ve put in quite a bit of time and quite a bit of work since Dubai and my game actually feels pretty good coming here.

“I thought I did a lot of the scoring aspects of the game very well: I putted well, I chipped well, I hung in there, my mental game was really good.

“You have to do everything well to win golf tournaments, but the things you have to do well to put a score together, I did, which is really encouraging because if that part of the game’s there, then minor tweaks here or there is all the difference you need between doing what I did and winning.”

With this week’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club his first PGA Tour start of the season, McIlroy was afforded the chance to look back on a mixed 2021 and assess where his game needs to improve going into 2022.

Despite being a year where he struggled to find his best form for long stretches, it still yielded two wins for the Holywood man and returned him to the top-10, although he also had the disappointment of a poor Ryder Cup showing, too.

“I think just more consistency is what I need. I don’t have to look that far back, I go back to 2019 and I had, I think I had 19 top-10s in 24 starts or something like that,” explained McIlroy, who joked he has a ‘100 percent’ record on the PGA Tour this season having won his previous start at the CJ Cup.

“I think it’s just a consistency that I want to sort of get back to that level of consistency. I think if you do that and you play to that level week in, week out, you’re inevitably going to give yourself chances to win golf tournaments, whether it be regular tour events or majors or anything else. That’s what I’m looking to improve on going forward.

“I think when all the top guys get together at a golf course like this, I think it is a good barometer and a good measurement to see where your game is.”

Of course, there are still plenty of off-course distractions going on at the moment as the Saudi-backed Super Golf League continues to gather pace, with PGA Tour player Kramer Hickok adding further fuel to the fire when he claimed on a podcast earlier this week that 17 players have signed up for the SGL.

McIlroy has been one of the most vocal about not taking the big bucks on offer for those who turn their backs on the PGA Tour, telling Golf Digest US he did not want to ruin his reputation for money he did not need, and he has been joined by the likes of this week’s tournament host Tiger Woods, World No.1 Jon Rahm and Open champion Collin Morikawa in that stance.

However, the talk around the SGL continues to gather momentum, with Bryson DeChambeau rumoured to have accepted $240million to be the League’s poster boy and six-time Major champion Phil Mickelson interested, and it was a topic of discussion at a PAC meeting on Tuesday.

While ultimately McIlroy insists he’s not interested in anything going on with the SGL, he does concede he is ‘intrigued’ by which players will break ranks and leave the PGA Tour for the financial rewards on offer.

“I guess I’m intrigued who would (go). Certainly for the younger guys, like it just seems a massive risk and I just don’t see (why),” opined McIlroy, a former chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council.

“I can maybe make sense of it for the guys that are getting to the latter stages of their career, for sure. I don’t think that’s what a rival golf league is really going to want, is it? They don’t want some sort of league that’s like a pre-Champions Tour. But I understand the financial part of it for guys that are later on in their career.

“You look at the people that have already said no – Rahm, Collin Morikawa, myself. Like you’ve got the top players in the world saying no, so that has to tell you something.”

McIlroy also confirmed that he has added the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio to his pre-Masters schedule, although he is still undecided on whether he will play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.

McIlroy gets his Genesis bid underway alongside Viktor Hovland and Hideki Matsuyama at 19.59 (Irish time).

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