By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- If Rory McIlroy had to do this year over again, he would have played more tournaments at the beginning of the season: To get adjusted to his new equipment; to get adjusted to the suddenly larger-than-life spotlight he’s now in.
“I felt that if it felt good in practice, it would feel good on the course,” he said on the eve of THE PLAYERS Championship.
That wasn’t the case.
McIlroy missed the cut in his first start, got bounced in the first round of a match-play event in his second and walked off the golf course midway through his second round in the third.
Even though it took him longer than expected to adjust, McIlroy wasn’t focused on this year. He was looking at the next 20.
“Taking three months of that to make an adjustment or to change isn’t that big a time frame,” he said. “But I had to play tournament rounds.”
When he did, he eventually turned the corner.
McIlroy finished eighth at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, where he closed with a 65. The following month he finished second in San Antonio. And last week he was in contention at Quail Hollow before finishing 10th after a final-round 73.
“Just getting it done and then not having to do it ever again or go through stages, I'd rather have the process last three months than have it being drawn out over a year or 18 months,” McIlroy continued. “Just get it all done, and if you need to make any tweaks here and there, you do.”
Now he hopes to get something else done: Make the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship, something he has failed to do in three trips here.
Why has one of the game’s best ball-strikers struggled at a place that rewards such traits? The answer is less complicated than you might think.
“The first year I came here I was in Vegas the week before,” McIlroy deadpanned. “That didn't help."
“The second year was my 21st birthday. That didn't help."
“And last year I don't have an excuse. I just didn't play well.”
McIlroy’s last two wins, however, have both come on Pete Dye courses -- Kiawah Island for last year’s PGA Championship and at Crooked Stick a few weeks later in the BMW Championship.
TPC Sawgrass, however, is, in McIlroy’s words, “tricky.”
“It's just one of these courses where the best player who plays well that week will win,” McIlroy said. “It doesn't suit any type of game style. You've got to go out there and play the shots.”