CASARES, Spain – With the Masters meltdown behind him, a reinvigorated Rory McIlroy intends to adopt a bullish approach in a bid to win his first tournament this year.
The 21-year-old Northern Irishman went into the final round at Augusta National last month with a four-stroke lead. But his attempt to win his first major ended after shooting an 8-over 80 in a dramatic collapse to drop to 15th overall.
After a period of introspection, McIlroy believes the episode has actually served him well. It’s produced a more aggressive outlook as he goes into this week’s World Match Play Championship in Spain – the first in a run of high-profile tournaments this summer.
“I went out on the last day at Augusta just trying to keep the lead, instead of saying, ‘Right, I’m going to go out, shoot 65, beat everyone by eight and just show everyone how good I am,”’ the No. 6-ranked McIlroy said on Wednesday.
“That’s really what I should be going out and doing now.”
Given what happened at Augusta, McIlroy knows exactly how fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell is feeling.
The U.S. Open champion led by three shots going to the 18th hole of his third round at The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass last weekend. But he hit four balls into the water on his way to a 79.
“Yeah, I sent him a text saying it happens to the best of us,” McIlroy said. “It can happen to anyone – he’s a major champion.
“It’s tough to finish off tournaments, no matter who you are. Tiger (Woods) made it look so easy for 15 years or whatever, but it’s really tough. But I spent a bit of time with him yesterday … and we’ve both got plenty of opportunities to win tournaments this year.”
McIlroy is back playing in Europe for the first time since the Masters and he is yet to notch a victory in 2011 His best finish was second place at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
Along with Lee Westwood, McIlroy skipped the Players Championship – a decision which drew stinging criticism from some American commentators – but he said that was a wise choice considering the schedule he faces over the next two months, culminating in the British Open at Sandwich from July 14-17.
“If I’d played there, I would have been playing six weeks in seven and the sixth week out of those seven would be the U.S. Open,” he said. “So that’s no way to prepare for a major championship. I want to turn up to that event feeling fresh and feeling ready to go.
“I’m looking forward to the stretch coming up through the summer.”
McIlroy’s World Match Play campaign starts on Thursday, when he takes on South Africa’s Retief Goosen in Group E.
His appearance at last year’s Ryder Cup has given McIlroy some experience with the one-on-one format, although he was knocked out at the second-round stage in the Accenture World Match Play in Arizona in February.
“I got hammered by Ben Crane,” McIlroy said, “so it would be nice to get a good run in this tournament.”