LOUISVILLE, August 9 – Since his May break-up with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, Rory McIlroy has intensely concentrated on golf and that has helped make him a dominant world number one with overwhelming form.
Without mentioning Wozniacki by name, McIlroy addressed the changes in his life and uptick in his results Friday after firing a four-under par 67 to seize the lead at the PGA Championship.
“I think it has happened to me for the better,” McIlroy said. “I’ve put a little bit more time into my golf and it refocused me in a way.
“It’s not the only thing I have — I’ve got my family and friends — but I’ve just immersed myself in the game. I’ve practiced hard, I’ve done all the right things and I’m reaping the rewards.”
McIlroy won his third career major title three weeks ago at the British Open in Hoylake and captured his first World Golf Championships victory last weekend in Akron, Ohio.
Time once spent flying around the world to be with Wozniacki at her tournaments is now poured into perfecting his game.
“It’s hard to really say how much more time,” McIlroy said. “Just seems like over the past couple of months I’ve just buried myself in my golf game and it seems to be working.
“What else do I have to do? I get up in the morning, go to the golf course, go to the gym. It’s just my life at the minute. It obviously works pretty well so I’m going to keep doing it.”
Since squandering a last-day lead at the 2011 Masters while trying to hold onto a lead, McIlroy has won the 2011 US Open, 2012 PGA Championship and the Claret Jug last month.
After enduring a difficult 2013 campaign while switching equipment, McIlroy became engaged to Wozniacki, only to break it off as wedding invitations were being sent.
The trek through such personal setbacks has helped harden McIlroy’s game now.
“There are obviously big differences both in terms of my game and my life,” McIlroy said. “I just know I’m a better player than I was in ’12.
“I’m better equipped mentally and physically to handle a stretch like this where you’re in the lead for a lot of tournaments. I’m more experienced and just better prepared to handle that.”
– Rory the rain king? –
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland has been solid in wet conditions to win majors and showers drenched Valhalla during his round Friday, although he resists the tag of being a rain king.
“Historically I’ve done well in soft conditions,” McIlroy said. “I don’t really like that I’m getting that sort of stereotype or tag, but at the same time those sort of conditions seem to suit me well.
“But I feel like I’m more than just a player that can win in soft conditions.”
And don’t look for McIlroy to relax on top, him vowing to stretch the lead as much as possible even if that risks costing him strokes as well.
“I went protection mode once in my career and it was the 2011 Masters. That didn’t work out very well,” McIlroy said. “So I said to myself I’ll never do that again. I don’t think you can protect a lead. You just have to go out and play your game.”
McIlroy is confident he make his latest hot streak last longer than ever before.
“I’m confident and I’m just on a good run,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep it going for a little while. Hopefully I can keep it longer than I’ve done in the past.”