Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

McIlroy makes US PGA major bid his number one priority

Flying: Rory McIlroy celebrates an eagle putt on the 18th at Valhalla yesterday

Resurgent Rory McIlroy revealed how his heart is no longer ruling his head as he remained on course for a second major title in four weeks in the 96th US PGA Championship at Valhalla last night.

The Holywood star said he has used professional and personal setbacks to sensationally bounce back to winning form. McIlroy carded a second round 67 for a clubhouse lead challenged by Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk going into today's third round.

The 25-year-old has returned to the world No1 spot after a traumatic 12 months on and off the course, leading to his split from tennis star fiancee Caroline Wozniacki in May, even though the wedding invitations had already been sent out.

Speaking about the change in his personal circumstances, McIlroy said: "I think it has happened to me for the better. I've put a little bit more time into my golf and refocused in a way. It's the only thing I have, I've got my family and my friends, but I just immersed myself in my game."

McIlroy added: "Do I expect to win? No. But do I expect to do the things that I know I can do and control? Yes. And I know that if I do those well, there's a good chance that I'll win.

"Golf is the number one priority to me and while I'm on this run of form I want to try and keep it going as long as possible. I'm going to keep working hard and try and get even better. Hopefully I can do that over the next few years and hopefully you'll see golf like this more often from me."

Yesterday was his 12th successive sub-par score and a nine-under-par halfway total of 133 means he is a combined 41 under par for his last 10 rounds, including being 17 under in winning the Open and 15 under to win a first World Golf Championship event in the Bridgestone Invitational last Sunday.

He also pointed to his collapse to a closing 80 in the 2011 Masters as the reason behind his subsequent success.

"I think I've had to learn to be a good frontrunner," said McIlroy, who won his first two majors by eight shots and led from start to finish at Royal Liverpool last month. "I maybe wasn't quite comfortable in that position at the start of my career, especially 2011 in the Masters. I was four ahead and I wasn't quite comfortable in that position.

"It's taken me a couple of years to grow into that and my mindset has stayed the same since that day at Augusta. If I'm two ahead going into the weekend here, I'm going to try to get three ahead, and if I'm three ahead, I'm going to try to get four ahead.

"I'm just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. I went into protection mode once in my career and that did not work out very well so I said would never do it again."

McIlroy added: “Do I expect to win? No. But do I expect to do the things that I know I can do and control? Yes. And I know that if I do those well, there's a good chance that I'll win.

“Golf is the number one priority to me and while I'm on this run of form I want to try and keep it going as long as possible.

“I'm going to keep working hard and try and get even better. Hopefully I can do that over the next few years and hopefully you'll see golf like this more often from me.”

Yesterday was his 12th successive sub-par score and a nine-under-par halfway total of 133 means he is a combined 41 under par for his last 10 rounds, including being 17 under in winning the Open and 15 under to win a first World Golf Championship event in the Bridgestone Invitational last Sunday.

He also pointed to his collapse to a closing 80 in the 2011 Masters as the reason behind his subsequent success.

“I think I've had to learn to be a good frontrunner,” said McIlroy, who won his first two majors by eight shots and led from start to finish at Royal Liverpool last month.

“I maybe wasn't quite comfortable in that position at the start of my career, especially 2011 in the Masters. I was four ahead and I wasn't quite comfortable in that position. It's taken me a couple of years to grow into that and my mindset has stayed the same since that day at Augusta.

“If I'm two ahead going into the weekend here, I'm going to try to get three ahead, and if I'm three ahead, I'm going to try to get four ahead. I'm just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. I went into protection mode once in my career and that did not work out very well so I said would never do it again.”

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