Rory McIlroy vowed to remain positive and patient as he insisted “good results are on their way” following a series of missed opportunities this season.
McIlroy has recorded five top-10 finishes and played in Sunday’s final group four times in his 11 starts worldwide since the turn of the year, but he has converted only one into a victory – at Bay Hill back in March.
The 29-year-old was disappointed with his performance over the weekend at the BMW PGA Championship having cruised into a three-shot lead at the halfway stage, eventually having to settle for a runner-up place behind Francesco Molinari at Wentworth.
But ahead of this week’s star-studded Memorial Tournament in Ohio, McIlroy insisted his game is trending in the right direction and he is trying not to dwell on the chances that have slipped through his grasp.
“You’ve got to look at the positives, it’s a step in the right direction,” said McIlroy, whose sensational final-round 64 at Bay Hill earned him his first tournament victory since the 2016 Tour Championship.
“Look, I should have won from the position I was in last week and I didn’t. But you look at everything that comes out of it, I hung in there and just didn’t have it over the weekend. Off the tee, or my iron play, it was all a bit of a struggle. I still shot a couple of rounds under par but it wasn’t quite good enough.
“But the positives are that I’ve earned more world ranking points than anyone this year, I’ve had some good finishes and I’ve put myself up there. I’ve only converted one of those chances that I’ve had, and I’ve played in the final group four times, but it’s all going in the right direction.
“It’s all there, it’s just about trying to stay patient and letting it happen rather than trying too hard. If I can just freewheel a bit like I did with that last round at Bay Hill, then I think good results are on their way.”
McIlroy also had a light-hearted dig at Justin Thomas, who makes his first start this week as world No 1 having ended Dustin Johnson’s 64-week reign at the top of the world rankings following a strong finish at The Players Championship.
“I think it’s really hard to play as world No 1, you’ve got so much pressure on your shoulders,” he said amid much laughter in the interview room. “There’s a bullseye on your back and it’s just really tough.
“But there’s a reason JT is No 1 in the world and that’s because he has been playing great golf. When you are world No 1, then the demands on your time increase a little, and you just need to remember what got you to that point.
“But Justin is great, he practises hard and does all the right things and he’s not going to forget that. You just have to manage your time a little bit better and find the time to stay there. It’s a great feeling when you get to any tournament as the No 1 player in the world, it’s a lifelong dream for all of us out here and I think he should just enjoy it.”
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Thomas is looking forward to the challenge of teeing up as world No 1 for the first time, and he has had two weeks off to refresh and get used to his new title.
“I enjoyed it for a couple days when I had the two weeks off, but after that it was over with,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it, and it’s odd because nothing comes with it.
“When you win a tournament, you get a trophy, you get a lot of money and you do a press conference afterwards. But I was in the middle of flying home when DJ finished at Sawgrass. I ended up staying up late enough to where I waited to refresh it and saw it and it was pretty cool.
“Seeing every other golfer in the world behind my name is, was a pretty fun thing. But in terms of teeing it up, I think it worked out well having the two weeks off to get some rest. And then last week put some work in and get feeling physically well and mentally fresh.
“But it’s still golf and this field is always extremely strong and there’s a lot of great players that I’m going to need to play well to have a chance to win this week.”