McIlroy eager to finish year with at least one more title
Northern Irishman targeting another money list win and strong end to season to establish momentum
THE last time Rory McIlroy competed in Turkey, he “gave up a bit” during his first match in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, lost his remaining two as well and finished last in the eight-man exhibition event.
Consolation came in the shape of US$300,000, an afternoon on the beach with then-girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and a first Race to Dubai title five weeks later following a brilliant victory in the DP World Tour Championship.
Three years on, McIlroy contests this week’s Turkish Airlines Open looking to complete an injury-affected 2015 in style with a fourth win of the season and a third money list title in four years.
“I feel like a lot’s happened and a lot of time has gone by since that last win of mine back in May (Wells Fargo Championship),” said McIlroy, who ruptured a ligament in his left ankle during a game of football with friends on July 4, ruling him out of the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles.
“I’m just trying to finish the season off well. I’d like to win the Race to Dubai for a third time, that would be a great achievement. I’d like to win at least one of these last three events that I’m playing. That would make me feel better about the end of the year.
“From when I injured my ankle at the start of July, if I was to go from then to the end of the season without another win, especially with how I was playing up until that point, it would be very disappointing. So I’ve got three opportunities coming up to try and get a win or two on the board and end this year on a positive, to at least go into next year with a bit of momentum.”
McIlroy, who enjoys a 271,214-point lead over Danny Willett in the Race to Dubai, will partner Willett and fifthplaced Shane Lowry for the first two rounds in Turkey and will also contest next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The 26-year-old has slipped to third in the world rankings behind Jason Day and Jordan Spieth after the pair won three of the season’s four majors between them, but insists he is not concerned about sending his rivals a message.
“I’m not thinking about those guys,” McIlroy added. “I’m just concentrating on myself and trying to get my game back to where I know that it can be. If I can do that, then all the rest of that stuff will sort of take care of itself.
“I guess I always have the belief. The good thing for me is that I can draw on some of the great performances and the memories that I have from winning big tournaments and knowing that if I’ve done that before, there’s no reason why I can’t do that again.”
McIlroy believes his putting has held him back since returning from injury, admitting it was more of a mental than a technical problem after finishing 26th in the Frys.com Open.
“I felt like every time I missed the putt, there was a question that followed it; did I pull it, did I misread it?” the Northern Irishman added. “And so I’ve worked quite a bit on routine, trying to free myself up and simplify it a little bit instead. I felt like sometimes I was making it a little bit more complicated than it has to be.
“I feel I’m a good putter. I feel like I hole out well. I definitely hole out much better than I used to do. And when I get my eye in, I’m really good. But I don’t get my eye in as much as I’d like to. I’ll always be somewhat of a streaky putter.”
As for his ankle, McIlroy revealed he has stepped up his fitness regime recently, adding: “I’m pretty much back to where I need to be. I’ve started to train the way I was before the injury again and I’m happy about that.”
American Ryan Moore, meanwhile, can become the first player since 2011 to win the same event three years running in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia this week. Moore defeated compatriot Gary Woodland in a play-off at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in 2013 and won by three shots last year, with Woodland again finishing runner-up alongside Sergio Garcia and Kevin Na. Steve Stricker was the last player to win a PGA Tour event three years in succession, winning the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Although the European Tour’s Final Series also gets under way in Turkey this week, Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Luke Donald are all competing in Malaysia, with Stenson feeling it provides a vital opportunity to get a head start on fulfilling his requirement of 15 PGA Tour events during the 2015-16 season.
LOOKING GOOD: Rory McIlroy back in the swing during practice and eager to return to winning ways in Turkey.