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Rory McIlroy rejects Sunday concerns and says European stars should go to USA to solve world ranking problems

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Rory McIlroy delivered a typically straight-talking press conference ahead of the RBC Heritage event.

Rory McIlroy delivered a typically straight-talking press conference ahead of the RBC Heritage event.

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Rory McIlroy delivered a typically straight-talking press conference ahead of the RBC Heritage event.

If there’s a case mounting against Rory McIlroy’s final round displays, it’s not one that interests the world number one.

He had been just three shots off the pace after three days at the Charles Schwab Challenge last week but could only card a disappointing four over par 74 on Sunday, slipping into a tie for 32nd and finishing nine shots behind winner Daniel Berger.

It was the third time in four outings that McIlroy, when in contention, has shot an over par final round.

Former world number one Nick Faldo had criticised the Northern Irishman for not having a ‘Plan B’ to gather together an unravelling round, after a bad start soon got worse and left him six over at the turn on Sunday.

The honest McIlroy wrote off Faldo’s quotes, made during last week’s televised coverage, as filling air time.

"I get the position Nick's put in with commentary where you just have to say something," he said. "I've learned very quickly out here that you don't take anything personally and you just move on."

Rather, as he prepares to continue the quest for a first victory since November at the RBC Heritage this week, McIlroy's adamant any recent Sunday woes have not formed a pattern worth space in his mindset.

“I wouldn't say that Sundays this year have been disappointing,” he insisted.

“(The Arnold Palmer Invitational at) Bay Hill, I would say was disappointing, and obviously last week, but that was just more annoying. I played crap. That was really it.

“It wasn't as if it was anything to do with the position I was in.

“I remember everyone kept asking me about Fridays six years ago in 2014 when I had bad Fridays. I don't think it's this thing.

“I try to go out there every day and shoot the best score I can, and the best score I could shoot on Sunday was 74. Hopefully, tomorrow I go out and try my best and shoot something a bit lower than that.

“So, no, I'm not worried about anything.”

It’s perhaps easy to see why the world’s top golfer isn’t remotely concerned. His disappointing finish last week ended an impressive run of seven consecutive top five finishes, dating back to August last year.

It was that consistency that brought McIlroy back to the top of the world rankings for the first time since 2015.

After a pause during the sporting shutdown, those rankings are how live once again, despite the USA’s PGA Tour being the only one of the world’s major tours back in action.

That has left European Tour regulars like Matt Fitzpatrick questioning the fairness of the decision, as inactive players like Lee Westwood and Eddie Pepperell have already begun to slip down the list.

The need for a two-week quarantine for any British golfers travelling across the Atlantic, in either direction, has provided further complications to players who want to get back into tournament action but McIlroy has little sympathy.

“If I were in their shoes and I was asked to come over to the States and quarantine for two weeks before these tournaments, I would have done that,” he said.

“If you really care about your career and care about moving forward, you should be here, I think. Last week was 70 World Ranking points for the winner, this week 74.

“I get there are different variables and families involved, but we all have the means to rent a very nice house in a gated community in Florida. It’s not a hardship for two weeks to come over and quarantine.

“You can bring your family with you. We all have the means to do that.

“I honestly don't understand the guys complaining because there is a solution to it. You can come over here and do what needs to be done.”

Arguably the most talked about golfer on the PGA Tour’s return last week was American Bryson DeChambeau.

Nicknamed the ‘Mad Scientist’ due to his fact-based approach to the game, De Chambeau put on 20 pounds of muscle during the coronavirus shutdown in a bid to gain distance.

On immediate evidence, it worked as he topped last week’s field on average driving distance at over 340 yards.

Interesting as it all is, it’s not an approach McIlroy will be attempting to mimic.

“It's impressive what he's doing,” admitted the Holywood golfer, who played alongside DeChambeau in the final round at Colonial CC.

“He's big. He’s got a conviction and he's following it. He's always thought outside the box and thought a little differently to most people. He's really put his mind at wanting to get longer, and he's definitely done that.

"He hit one into the wind on 11. I hit a really good one and hit it 313 yards. He must have flew my ball by 40 yards. He hit it 354 into the wind. It was crazy. It was nuts. It's unbelievable.

“But I actually feel my best when I'm lighter. I feel more supple. I feel like I get a little more speed. I was probably at my lightest at the start of the season. I remember weighing myself at Torrey Pines on the Sunday morning before going out to the final round, and I was like 155 pounds (11 stone). I think that's half of Bryson now.”

McIlroy tees off tomorrow's opening round at 12.40pm (BST), playing alongside Rickie Fowler and CT Pan on the Harbour Town Golf Links.

World number 49 Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut last week, gets his round under way at 6.16pm, one group behind Open Champion Shane Lowry.

Belfast Telegraph