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What We Learned: McIlroy answers his critics

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Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on "what we learned" from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Rory McIlroy's return to the winner's circle at the Australian Open and what it means to him and his critics of his 2013 performance. 


Ever since that contrived “Hello world” moment in Abu Dhabi when the Swoosh’s secret became official and Rory McIlroy joined the Nike Golf team, the season has been a collection of missteps, missed opportunities and misguided expectations. To be honest, the Ulsterman was always going to have a hard time backing up that 2012 campaign, new bag of sticks or otherwise. But on Sunday in Sydney, that Technicolor announcement in Abu Dhabi seemed like a lifetime ago as McIlroy out-dueled Adam Scott to win the Australian Open. It was, after everything that has happened this year, a fitting “welcome back.” - Rex Hoggard


Earlier this year, mired in mediocre golf that was excused by others as some combination of new equipment and an old girlfriend and lingering management issues, Rory McIlroy posted a tweet with the hashtag "FTB." I'll let you figure out the F on your own, but the last two letters stood for "The Begrudgers." Its message was clear: Behind closed doors, McIlroy wasn't taking too kindly to the criticism. With his win at the Australian Open – his first anywhere in exactly one year and six days – he finally silenced the critics. Afterward he appeared more relieved than excited, a giant monkey jumping off his back as that final-hole birdie putt dropped into the cup. McIlroy has admitted this was a long, hard year, but as it grinds to a close he'll go into 2014 with more confidence and fewer criticisms, each of which should ensure that it won't be another year and six days before he claims his next title. – Jason Sobel


Rory McIlroy just might be getting his killer instinct back.

How else do you describe Sunday’s victory in the Australian Open? McIlroy didn’t just step on another player’s heart by winning at Royal Sydney. He stepped on an entire continent of hearts beating Adam Scott Down Under. This is how McIlroy rolls at his best. He rolls ruthlessly. We saw it in his eight-shot rout winning the U.S. Open in 2011 and in his eight-shot runaway winning the PGA Championship last year. This week, we get to see if he's ruthless enough to beat Tiger Woods in Tiger's event. – Randall Mell


Can a four-win campaign be considered a slight disappointment? It might feel that way to Adam Scott. Yes, his year was already made in April, when he snapped his 0-for-majors streak at the Masters. But he kicked away good chances to win at both the Open (again) and PGA, where he was in contention on the weekend. He didn’t win the FedEx Cup, after a Saturday 74. He didn’t win the World Cup, after an opening 75. And now, he didn’t win the Australian Open – the third jewel in the Triple Crown in Oz – after he failed to make anything on the final day and bogeyed the last. Heading into a long offseason, this was a sour note to what was an otherwise incredible, life-changing season. Ryan Lavner