Rory McIlroy: I dont need to fill a void in my life by winning majors

Posted On May 8, 2019 at 7:37 pm by / Comments Off on Rory McIlroy: I dont need to fill a void in my life by winning majors

Rory McIlroy desperately wants to win the Masters but he exclusively tells Ewan Murray he already has something more valuable in his trophy cabinet and that is fulfilment

The most astute observations about elite sport do not always come from those competing. It was Rory McIlroys wife, Erica, who delivered a perspective on the Masters that resonated with one of the worlds finest golfers.

She put it this; its like when you are a kid and you go to Disneyland, McIlroy says. You think it is the only place in the world. When you are at Augusta that week, its the only place in the world. You drink the punch, everyone is wearing their Masters gear. Its like Disney with your mouse ears.

You leave on Sunday night and all of a sudden you snap out of it. The week passed so quickly and you were in a daze because of the whole Augusta thing. You have got to strip that all away. Its a golf course, its a golf tournament.

After winning the Players Championship last month a first trophy in 12 months McIlroy will return to Augusta National next week as one of the favourites for a tournament that has eluded him, sometimes painfully. At 29, he is seeking to become only the sixth player to complete a grand slam of majors. That McIlroy has not won one of the big four since 2014 only fuels the hype around him. He is judged by loftier standards but he has no problem with that status.

The McIlroy of 2019 has spent a lot of time reading. He classes the genre as self-improvement with the undertone being that perhaps something different was needed to break the Masters mould. He first competed at Augusta in 2008 but two subsequent Masters linger. In 2011, he capitulated horribly over the closing nine tournament holes from a dominant position. And when the scene appeared set for McIlroy to topple Patrick Reed over the final round last year, he was unable to apply sufficient pressure to the American.

If you win you win, if you dont I think it has taken me a while to get to this point, McIlroy says. Id love to win it. Im going out there to try my best. Indifferent maybe sounds wrong but Im not at the point where its a burden to me. Not at all.

If making history by completing the slam would be a compelling story, McIlroy is not consumed by thoughts of the prize; the placing of the Masters on a pedestal has proved to be detrimental. Over the last couple of years, the only thing I feel has held me back between the golf Ive played and the golf I want to play is mindset. Thats it. Nothing physical, purely how Ive approached things mentally.

Rory McIlroy consults caddie Harry Diamond on the way to winning the Players Championship at Sawgrass. Harry is one of the most hard-working guys out there, says McIlroy. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

I have made a good effort this year to treat every week the same. It is never any different; you are playing four rounds, out there trying to win. It is all about perception and meaning. Augusta only means so much to people because of what they attach to it. The only reason Augusta means so much to me is because of what I attach to it. So if I take some of that away It is not easy but it can be done. Its just trying to see things in a bigger picture, taking a step away from this tiny little bubble that is the golf world.

McIlroy success at the Players appears to show the approach is working. Curiously, though, his latest tilt at the Masters will come in a year when it isnt even the summit of his aspirations. The return of the Open to Royal Portrush, where McIlroy used to watch his father, Gerry, compete in amateur events, holds special significance. I dont know if I am going to get to play in another Open at home. I dont get emotional about it I get excited.

And yet, McIlroy, who will be 30 next month, recalls dejection as being the main emotion 51 weeks ago after failing to secure the one major to elude him. He had slipped to a 74 and never looked at ease as Reed rather strolled towards the Green Jacket.

The first time I let it go, in 2011, I didnt know how many chances I was going to have. Now Im pretty confident Im going to have more chances to win at Augusta.

It was just disappointment last year that I didnt play better. I mentally wasnt in the right place to fight through some of the tendencies I had with my swing. The day was summed up by missing everything left in the warm-up then hitting my first tee shot 40 yards right. I was like: Whats going on here? So that was in the back of my mind all day. I played conservatively, defensively. Augusta can make you do that.

Youve got a chance here, you may as well just feel like you have nothing to lose. Its that playing without the fear of failure, welcoming the situation. If I am going to lose I may as well lose by playing my way. I can accept making mistakes if Im 100% committed. Its mistakes when thats not the case that really get to me; thats what I did in that last round.

A common misconception seems to be that McIlroys lifestyle somehow diminishes his on-course appetite. McIlroy knows what Masters victory would mean, he is just keen to put it into context.

I would join a group of people who are legends of the game that I fell in love with as a kid. That is really cool. That is unbelievably cool. If I win the Masters Im not going to wake up on Monday morning as a different person. Ill be the same Rory, with the same parents, same wife, same group of people around me. Nothing is going to change.

I desperately want to win it, because I want to feel that satisfaction that I had worked hard, persevered, persisted and eight years later after having that chance to win the Masters Id achieve something I hadnt done before. Thats hugely motivating but its not going to make me a different person. It wont change the opinions of people I value.

I live the greatest life I ever thought I could. I am thinking of the bigger picture; will it change the fact Im married to a great person, will it change that Ill hopefully have kids one day and a great family? All that stuff isnt going to change if I win four majors or 10. Its not lack of motivation, its fulfilment in my life. Winning tournaments makes me happy, satisfied Ive achieved something but thats not fulfilment. Fulfilment is much bigger than golf tournaments. I dont need to fill a void in my life by winning majors. I dont have that void. So does it scare me that I might not win another major? It doesnt scare me at all but that doesnt mean I dont want to.

McIlroy has finished inside Augustas top 10 every year since 2013 but his critics demand so much more. That his best friend, Harry Diamond, has been his caddie since the ending of a relationship with JP Fitzgerald in the summer of 2017 has been a frequent cause for sniping, despite a string of results that are more consistent than at any stage of McIlroys professional career. He is aware of the external noise, even if he makes an effort not to give it oxygen.

Harry is one of the most professional and hard-working guys out here. People dont see that but its a lazy, easy criticism to make. He should get a proper caddie. Dont get me started

Rory McIlroy congratulates Patrick Reed after the Americans victory at last years Masters. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

There are misconceptions about my game but more about my attitude. I work ridiculously hard. People think Ive been born with this natural talent, I go out and play golf without caring about it. I work harder than most but I dont put it out there. Why do people need to see that? When Im at home Im spending eight or 10 hours a day at the course; gym, hitting balls, putting, short game, playing. Ive never gotten the pure talent thing, because this is years of hard work.

Cliche bashing has become something of an endearing McIlroy habit. Do not suggest, for example, that a Masters win would represent the completion of a journey. The journey isnt for 10 years. The journey even to get to that first [professional] win was longer than the journey to get to here from there. The journey from hitting golf balls at two or three years of age to winning? That was 16 to 17 years.

If I need to wait for this, fine. Im in this for the long haul, this isnt something Im going to give up in a couple of years to do something else.

It is left to others to contemplate the level of expectation should McIlroy be in Masters pole position on the morning of Sunday week.

Its just that final little step of, when you are in contention not giving a shit if you win or not, McIlroy says. If Im committed to this life-long journey of trying to be one of the best players ever, why does this one round count more than any of the others? If I go out there and play the game the way I know I can? Ill be fine.

McIlroy may privately hope this is an epic understatement. So many of those looking on most definitely do.

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