By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- Rory McIlroy didn't dwell on that missed cut in Abu Dhabi.
He and his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki headed to the French Alps for some R&R. Toney Monaco was also on the itinerary. But McIlroy made sure he got in plenty of practice time in Florida before he headed to Arizona for this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
As a result, even after a six-week break from competition, the world No. 1 feels ready to go. And McIlroy would like nothing better than to silence the doubting Thomases and Thomasinas who question his highly-publicized switch from Titleist to Nike equipment and balls.
"I'm actually much happier with how I'm swinging the club," McIlroy said. "The clubs were performing fine in Abu Dhabi, it was just the fact that I wasn't swinging at my best. But I did a lot of good work with Michael over the past sort of ten days, and I feel like I've turned a corner with my swing.
"I've got it back on track, and that's ultimately what's going to help me play better."
That said, McIlroy, who hasn't played in the U.S. since last year's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, knows 18 holes of match play is a different animal. You can play well and someone just plays better. Or, you might get the breaks and survive even when you don't have your best game.
"I was speaking to Graeme McDowell a couple of days ago, and he was saying last year he had already had his bag packed in the locker room and when he was wheeling his bag out of the locker room, my golf shoes were still sitting there in front of my locker," McIlroy said. "My golf shoes weren't even on yet to play my first round match. You can be going home early.
"It's great, it focuses you right away. ... If you need that putt to stay in the match like on the 16th green or whatever, it's basically like a putt to win a tournament. You have to make it. To have that feeling on the first day is nice."
McIlroy has played in the Accenture Match Play Championship four times previously. In 2009, the 23-year-old introduced himself to the American golf audience by reaching the quarterfinals, then he was eliminated in the second round each of the next two years. A year ago, though, the Northern Irishman didn't lose until the championship match at Dove Mountain, falling 2 and 1 to Hunter Mahan.
"I love the golf course here," McIlroy said. "It's a great course for match play. You can be really aggressive and make a lot of birdies."
McIlroy isn't concerned about his lack of competition, either.
"I don't feel like I'm a guy that needs to play his way into form," he explained. "I think I just practice and if I feel like I'm confident on the range and hitting it well and playing well in practice rounds, then that'll translate into shooting good scores on the course. ...
"It feels good, and hopefully I can show that to everyone this week."
The first World Golf Championships of the year is the first of three straight tournaments for McIlroy, who will then take two weeks off before heading to the Shell Houston Open in advance of the Masters. He thinks the next few weeks will be a "good measuring stick" for his game.
"I'm excited to get back," McIlroy said. "It's been really nice to have this break. I feel like I needed it, and really excited to be back out on TOUR and trying to play some good golf."