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I never lost belief, but now my confidence is on rise ahead of Masters mission: Rory

Perfect fit: Arnold Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders and widow Kit Palmer help Rory put on the championship sweater
Perfect fit: Arnold Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders and widow Kit Palmer help Rory put on the championship sweater

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy is looking ahead to The Masters with confidence after ending an 18-month wait for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The Ulsterman shot a superb final-round 64 at Bay Hill on Sunday to top a high-quality leaderboard by three shots.

The 28-year-old struggled for form and fitness during a difficult 2017 but he is now in good shape ahead of the first Major of the year at Augusta, which begins in just over a fortnight.

"It's huge for my confidence going into the next few weeks," said McIlroy. "I kept saying I didn't need a win going into Augusta to feel like I had a chance - I just wanted to see signs of good golf - but thankfully I've been able to get both here."

McIlroy now appears settled after a hectic period in his life which also saw him get married, move house and change equipment supplier and caddie.

He never had any doubt that he could get back to his best.

He said: "I've always believed in myself and I know that me being 100 per cent healthy is good enough to not just win on the PGA Tour but win a lot. I guess that's what kept me going.

"I never lost belief. I know that I've got a gift for this game and I know that if I put the time in I can make a lot of it."

McIlroy finished on 18 under after five birdies on his final six holes. That run was enough to see off Bryson DeChambeau, who ended on 15 under.

But it was another fine performance from Tiger Woods that commanded most of the attention.

The former World No.1 and 14-time Major winner put himself into contention on the final day before eventually having to settle for a 69 and a tie for fifth.

Coming a week after his joint-second at the Valspar Championship, it was another strong showing by the 42-year-old ahead of his first appearance at Augusta in three years.

The four-time Masters winner said: "If you had told me at the beginning of the year I would have a chance to win two tournaments I would have taken that in a heartbeat.

"If I can play with no pain and I can feel like I can make swings I'll figure it out. I'm starting to piece it together tournament by tournament.

"I'm looking forward to it (The Masters). I miss playing there. I've had a lot of success there, too, so I'm really looking forward to getting up there and doing a bit of work."

Beyond Tiger's Sunday roar and McIlroy winning, Patrick Reed whined to an official, asking why he wasn't receiving Jordan Spieth treatment on the 11th hole at Bay Hill on Sunday.

Reed shanked his approach heading to the par-four 11th, airmailing his shot behind the hole and into a carpet of pine needles and hanging cable wires. Reed was looking for relief, thanks to the wires making it nearly impossible for him to get into an actual stance, but the official on hand wasn't having any of it.

During a video clip, a woman says: "Anyone else would get a drop out of there." According to the person who filmed it, it was Reed's wife, Justine, who was giving her take on the situation.

"I guess my name has to be Jordan Spieth," Reed chimed in.

Belfast Telegraph


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