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Rory McIlroy sets aside woes to defend PGA crown

The 24-year-old former world number one from Northern Ireland has been watching videos of his victory last year.

Rory McIlroy hits on the 15th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club.
Rory McIlroy hits on the 15th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club.

RORY MCILROY IS looking to the past to help defend his title at the PGA Championship this week at Oak Hill after a season of misery following equipment changes.

The 24-year-old former world number one from Northern Ireland has been watching videos of his victory last year at Kiawah Island to bolster his confidence and try and reclaim the attitude that has helped him win two major titles, including the 2011 US Open.

“It’s just trying to remember how I felt that week and trying to carry some of that into this week and just get those good, positive thoughts going,” McIlroy said Wednesday.

“Everyone sees when I walk and I’m playing well, I have that little bounce in my step, so just trying to get that going again and trying to get that positive energy back.”

McIlroy has managed four top-10 showings in 15 events but other than a runner-up effort at the Texas Open has not been a title contender.

But McIlroy says that recapturing the magic is “not so far away. I just need to go out and enjoy it. If it doesn’t happen this week, it’s still building for the future.

“I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. There’s still a lot of golf left to play. I expect to play well. There’s no reason I shouldn’t.

“Every period is character building. You learn something from it and move on. Life would be pretty boring if it was easy all the time.”

McIlroy played few events at the start of the year and made an equipment switch to new sponsor Nike this year that required a period of adjustment, although he says he can’t blame the clubs for his current woes.

“It was a valid point at the start of the year. I don’t think it’s a valid point now,” McIlroy said. “I mean, it’s nine months in. Of course there’s going to be a transition period.

“I’m really happy with everything I’ve got in my bag and I’ve had the best part of eight or nine months to play with it.”

McIlroy puts the blame on his swing struggles, notably without saying how much of that might be attributable to the equipment change.

“I just haven’t been swinging it the best this year,” McIlroy said.

“I got into a couple bad habits with my golf swing, and it’s just taken my a little bit longer to get out of them. When you’re fighting that so much, it’s hard to play the golf that I want to play, which is fluid, which is free flowing.”

That has also eroded McIlroy’s confidence.

“Every time you play and you don’t play well, it sort of chips away at your confidence a little bit and it’s just about building that back up. But I’m sitting here as confident as I have been all year,” McIlroy said.

“You never hope to struggle or not to play well, but it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. There have been times this year where I’ve really gotten down on myself and that hasn’t helped at all.

“What would I do differently? I would have definitely played more at the start of this year. That’s one thing I regret. I played Abu Dhabi and took like four weeks off. I didn’t play and I needed to get into a run of events.”

England’s Ian Poulter asked for patience regarding McIlroy’s struggles.

“Give him a break,” Poulter said. “Everybody expects Rory to continue to win big tournaments and he will. Signing a big endorsement deal and changing equipment manufacturers come under a lot of scrutiny, so he has had a lot of extra added pressure.

“Sometimes we forget how young he is and what he has been able to achieve at a very early age. So the second he feels comfortable again, whether that’s with his swing or equipment or whatever it is, then Rory will be winning. That natural swing of his doesn’t just disappear overnight.”

- © AFP, 2013

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