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 Herald - Sport - - RUGBY UNION, GOLF - PHIL CASEY

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 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.

Pic­ture: Getty

LOOK­ING GOOD: Rory McIl­roy back in the swing dur­ing prac­tice and ea­ger to re­turn to win­ning ways in Turkey.

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