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March 12 2012

12:00 AM

McIlroy’s confidence continues to grow

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Rory McIlroy hasn't finished outside the top 5 in five starts this season.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

DORAL, Fla. -- Even though Rory McIlroy felt “flat” when he arrived at this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, he felt he could win and on Sunday he nearly did.

McIlroy shot a 5-under 67, at one point getting to within a stroke of the lead, to finish third, two strokes behind winner Justin Rose.

There’s a good reason for McIlroy to feel as confident as he does. In five starts this year, McIlroy has yet to finish outside the top five. He has a win, two runner-up finishes and Sunday finished solo third at TPC Blue Monster at Doral. He’s also No. 1 in the FedExCup standings and No. 1 in the world.

“Yeah, I do,” McIlroy said when asked if he feels like he can win every time he tees it up. “Even when I don't feel like I've played my best or I am playing my best, that's been the biggest improvement in my game is being able to turn those 71s and 72s into 69s or 68s and keep yourself in a tournament.”

That’s what he did this week. Despite a sluggish start Thursday when he opened with a 1-over 73, McIlroy kept himself in the tournament with rounds of 65 and 67 on the weekend, which included going out in 30 in the third round.

Sunday when everyone else seemed to be struggling early, including overnight leader Bubba Watson, who made three straight bogeys at one point on the front nine, McIlroy was mostly mistake free. He made  four birdies in his first 10 holes and with an eagle on the par-5 12th got to within one of the lead.

Two bogeys sandwiched around one birdie over McIlroy’s final five holes derailed his chances, but McIlroy certainly seems to have grown by leaps and bounds in the last 11 months.

”You learn a lot from previous experiences,” McIlroy said. “Masters was a big one for me. I think U.S. Open gave me the confidence to know that I was doing the right things and that I could win the biggest tournaments.

“Confidence, it can do massive things for your game. Even if you're not playing that great, if you still have confidence in yourself, it makes a big difference.”

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