Rory McIlroy is learning that there’s more to being world No. 1 than hoisting trophies and padding bank accounts. It’s also about finding the right balance of work, rest and fun.
On Wednesday, the Northern Irishman was forced to defend his decision to skip last week’s HSBC Champions. Instead of playing the final World Golf Championship event of the year, he traveled to Bulgaria to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis.
“I think the criticism is fair,” McIlroy told reporters during a pre-tournament news conference at the European Tour’s Barclays Singapore Open. “It is a World Golf Championship event, one of the big ones. It was a tough one to miss. But I can’t play every week. …
“If I had played that, I would have finished the season having played in Turkey, after the Ryder Cup and the FedEx Cup stuff. It’s just too much and one event had to miss out, and that was it.”
That’s why the 23-year-old has already indicated that he intends to cut back his schedule next season, to 22 or 23 worldwide events.
The two-time major winner already has wrapped up the PGA Tour money title, after earning more than $8 million in 16 starts, and needs only a top-10 this week in Singapore to capture the European Tour’s Order of Merit. He would become the second player in two years (Luke Donald) to win the money title on both sides of the Atlantic.
His on-course achievements are fulfilling, no doubt, but McIlroy – quite eloquently – also expressed a desire to enjoy himself off the course, as well.
“Managing time is a very important part of my life,” he told reporters. “I thought I did a little bit better this season than I did last year after I won the U.S. Open in 2011. People want more of you, they want you to do more things and you have to learn how to say ‘no.’
“You have to be selfish sometimes. First and foremost, you have to look after yourself and fit in the things that you want to do. You see some guys, golf is everything; it’s their life. Of course it’s my life, and I’m very lucky to do it, but sometimes you just need to step away from it and decompress in a way. Spending last week with Caroline definitely helped me do that.”