McIlroy: “A week that could have been”

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Unfortunately, there’s been a recurring theme for Rory McIlroy since returning to the United States as the back-to-back Dubai Desert Classic champion and eyeing up the world number one ranking once again. Start strong, then have a poor run of holes that sees him drop down the leaderboard and never really get back in the groove again.

Whilst this has come in the first round at both the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational, it came in the third round at the Cognizant Classic at PGA National. A frustrating third round had sparked into life on the back nine and he’d moved to within two of the lead before he got snared in the ‘Bear Trap’ holes on the Champion Course. A bogey at 15 was followed by a triple-bogey at 16, being forced to eventually take a penalty drop after trying to play his third from the water and ending up in a worse position after his ball bounced on the bank and rolled back in.

“A week that could have been,” he said after closing out a final-round 67 in near darkness after play was suspended for three-and-a-half hours. “I felt like most of my play was a bit better than what the result suggested. That bad hole on 16 yesterday, a few sloppy mistakes here and there. Overall the game seems to be trending in the right direction. I drove the ball great again this week. I led the field in strokes gained off the tee at Riv. Probably going to do that again this week.

“That’s the foundation of my game. When that’s good, I just need some of the rest of the pieces to fall into play. Hopefully they can over the next couple weeks.”

As the quest for the career grand slam continues and Augusta National is looming ever closer on the horizon, the world number two has been hoping to play his way into form, adding the Cognizant Classic – a course winner here in 2012 – and the Valero Texas Open the week before Augusta to his schedule as he hopes to peak on that all-important week in April.

“Yeah, if anything I’m just learning sort of my patterns and learning how to manage my game a little bit,” he said when asked how he’s assess his game so far. “There’s still a few misses in there, but at the same time, I know what those misses are, so I know how to manage it a little bit better.

“It’s been good. Looking forward to Bay Hill and looking forward to THE PLAYERS, too.

“This has been a little stop-start since the Middle East, so looking forward to getting on a run of events here.”

With almost half of the field returning to complete their final rounds on Monday, McIlroy was one of the last to be able to complete all 18 holes, but there’s no chance of a rest as he’s due to partner his father Gerry in the famous Seminole Member Pro event at the nearby club today – an event that will be severely hampered by the Monday finish at PGA National. This comes a week after he competed in Capital One’s The Match under lights last Monday, then got into competition mode for the Cognizant Classic, but he’s not complaining about the busy schedule.

“I’m really happy I got done today because it means to join my dad in the most important day of his year tomorrow at Seminole,” he said with a smile.

“I guess it’s the life that I wanted. It’s the life that I’ve asked for. I’m not going to stand up here and complain. This is what I want to do. I like being busy.

“I try to not — no one likes being me more than me, so that’s sort of the attitude that I like to go with. I’m busy, but I like being busy when it’s stuff that I want to do.”

Though he’s a past winner of the Member Pro at Seminole, that came in 2015 playing alongside John Pinkham. Since Gerry McIlroy became a member, the father-son duo have yet to conquer the event, so though Rory will be back in competition mode again, he’ll have one eye on the latest from PGA National with close friend Shane Lowry in contention.

“It would mean a lot,” McIlroy said when asked about the prospect of a Lowry victory. “He loves this place, and he’s always played well at this golf course. I said to him earlier, at least it gets him out of the Monday pro-am at Bay Hill tomorrow, so he doesn’t have to deal with that. I’d love to see him win. I’m going to be keeping a close eye and cheering for him, and hopefully he gets the job done.”

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