Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Rory McIlroy won't let success slow down his momentum

Smiles better: Rory McIlroy has a laugh with Thomas Bjorn on the practice course yesterday

It's the Ryder Cup seven weeks ahead of schedule. A total of 17 of the 38 two-balls at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational tomorrow feature European players versus American.

Only 12 players from each side of the Atlantic make the respective teams at Gleneagles in September, making the points available this week of huge value for those on the fringe of selection.

Rory McIlroy, leading those already qualified and playing his first event since winning the Open at Hoylake a fortnight ago, is paired with Matt Kuchar. US Open champion Martin Kaymer has the pleasure of Tiger Woods's company.

The theme continues with Justin Rose walking out with joint Open runner-up Rickie Fowler. Sergio Garcia, who shared second with Fowler at Royal Liverpool, is paired with Phil Mickelson.

This is only Woods's third tournament since back surgery in April, leaving him way out of the automatic selections.

When he was last in this kind of pickle four years ago needing the nod from captain Corey Pavin, Woods produced one of his most convincing displays, returning three points at Celtic Manor.

No such issues for McIlroy. The Ulsterman's growing stature in the game is reflected in the auction item that the ball that won the Open has become.

McIlroy launched his ball into the crowd at Hoylake, the recipient seeking to maximise his good fortune by making it available to the highest bidder.

The sale, conducted by Green Jacket Auctions in the United States, reports a bid of more than $3,000. Bidding closes on August 9.

"How many chances will a collector have in their entire life to obtain the actual ball used to win a Major Championship?" said a spokesman.

"This is a ball that will only gain in significance for the next 20, 50, even 100 years. In the collecting world, this is what's called a dream piece."

Only Nicklaus and Woods have done what McIlroy has in winning three of the four majors by 25.

With the final big one of the season following on directly next week the focus will remain on the Holywood man, come what may this week.

McIlroy tackled questions of consistency, which he conceded has not been what it might, which is a blessing for his rivals.

"The good is great and the bad is really bad," he said.

"I'm working on it, but I think most players would take the kind of inconsistency I have shown."

Playing a three-ball yesterday with Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley, where the banter was lively and the laughs were plenty, McIlroy knocked down the flagstick on both par-3s, hit every fairway with his driver and barely missed one shot.

He was so on that he joked on many occasions that he might be wasting his good shots ahead of tomorrow's start of the third WGC of the season.

By the looks of things, he's still not partying with the Claret Jug.

"I think every time you have success, you need to reassess your goals because it's only halfway, two-thirds through the season, and a lot of the goals that I set myself for the start of the year, I've achieved already," he said.

"So that's when you have to reassess and say, 'Okay, you've boxed that off. Celebrate it for a couple of days, but then you've got to move on.'

"You've got to keep moving forward and keep thinking about what you want to achieve from now until the end of the year. And then at the end of the year, you can really reflect on everything you've done and enjoy it.

"I feel like I've got a lot of momentum, and I can carry that through to the end of the year and hopefully ride that and play some really good golf, similar to what you saw at Hoylake."

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