Rory McIlroy is coming back to The Players Championship after a five-week layoff. In that time frame, he has gotten married and has a golf bag full of new clubs. For the 28-year-old PGA pro who has 22 wins to his credit, this is a change that he hopes will help him play better, and possibly take home the title here at the Sawgrass Country Club.
The time off from the game (Augusta and the Masters) not only saw him marry his new bride, Erica Stoll, but it allowed him to focus on holes in his game. He explained to the media on Tuesday, the areas that needed to be addressed were tackled. Now, he is ready to challenge the competition this weekend.
“As I said, I needed to address a few issues after Augusta. I alluded to the fact that I wasn’t really happy with the golf ball I was playing and I needed to do something,” McIlroy said.
“I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta, worked with a lot of different things, but I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on TrackMan on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball, that new TP5x ball that they have, and I thought, wow, this is what I need, this is exactly the thing that I’ve been struggling with, and this is, I feel, is what I need. And then over the over the course of the next few days, I tested different combinations, a lot of different stuff, and I came to the conclusion that was the best way forward for me to try to improve, try to win more, try to get back to world No. 1, try to win more Majors. So, I’m really excited about that.”
What’s in the bag should go a long way to help him win more majors, more tournaments and possibly win for the first time at The Players Championship.
“I’ve been on TOUR 10 years, and this is — it’s very rare that you get really excited about your equipment, but I’m — I am, I feel like it’s a new chapter in my life with a lot of stuff going on, but I really feel with the new equipment, as well, it’s hopefully going to take me to that next level,” he explained.
Like Jason Day, McIlroy eluded to the desire to regain the world’s top ranking in golf. Day also talked about self-doubt in his game. When asked about the very topic, McIlroy said it has changed a bit as he has gotten older on the tour. Both want The Players Championship to lead to that happening again.
“Actually that’s funny, I feel the longer I’ve played, the more my self-belief’s sort of wavered a little bit. When I was 10 years old I thought I was the best player on the planet,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to go, I mean, obviously I still feel like on my day I’m the best player in the world, but there’s a lot of competition out here, and it’s — I feel like if I — yeah, there are times you doubt yourself and you’re like, you know, am I — of course, I think everyone has that.
“I think that’s natural. I think you would be somewhat of a machine if you said every week that, yeah, I’m the best and I believe in myself 100 percent. There’s going to be times, especially in this game, because there are so many different aspects of the game, and you might be excelling at one part but you know you’re not quite there in another. So it’s just like trying to balance that and balance expectations, and so I can definitely see where Jason’s coming from.”
When McIlroy was on top of the world – having won the US Open in 2011 and the following it up with PGA Championship in 2012 and then the Open Championship and PGA again in 2014, it looked as if the golf world had found someone to rival Tiger Woods. Since then, there have been ebbs and flows in his game. Like every other golfer out there, he longs to win another major. Also like Day, he wants to once again reach that No. 1 ranking again, to get back to the top of the mountain. The Players Championship could be the springboard to other majors.
“I always have always felt like getting to the top of the mountain is easier than staying there. I think it takes just as much hard work to stay there as it does to get all the way up. And it’s golf; it’s life; it’s human” he said. “ The way we are, there’s going to be ebbs and flows in everyone’s careers and you just have to accept that and realize that there’s going to be sometimes when it isn’t quite what you want and it’s not going your way, but there’s going to be other times where you get on a run and you have to ride that as much as you possibly can.”