Updated: 24/02/2014 15:49 | By Press Association

McIlroy feeling "settled" in 2014



Rory McIlroy will hope to avoid another early exit in Arizona

Rory McIlroy will hope to avoid another early exit in Arizona

Rory McIlroy is happy the weather is not the only thing that is completely different in this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

McIlroy was the world number one 12 months ago when he followed a missed cut in Abu Dhabi - his first event with his expensive new Nike equipment - with a first-round defeat to fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, in a match delayed 24 hours by heavy snow at Dove Mountain.

It marked the start of a largely miserable 2013 for McIlroy, who struggled on the course and found himself involved in legal battles off it, before a late-season rally culminated in his only win of the year at the Australian Open in December.

"It's much more settled, I can just go about my business and play my golf," McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference when asked to compare 2014 to 2013. "Everything is in a good place, the game is in good shape I feel.

"Compared to this time last year, it's so different. I don't have to go through any changes in equipment, don't have to answer the questions. It's also nice to be wearing a t-shirt, not have to wear any sweaters or mittens."

Rated a 14/1 favourite to win a first World Golf Championships title and the £915,000 first prize, McIlroy has shown some good form in 2014, finishing second in Abu Dhabi after a costly two-shot penalty for taking an improper drop in the third round, as well as a top-10 finish in the Dubai Desert Classic.

However, the two-time major winner flattered to deceive somewhat in Dubai, following a stunning opening 63 with rounds of 70, 69 and 74, slipping from second place to ninth in the final round.

"I haven't hit the ball as well for a long time," he added. "It's been a good start to the season. I have two events under my belt and had a chance to win both of them.

"I was a little disappointed with how I putted at the weekend in Dubai but have spent two days with (putting coach) Dave Stockton here and it was nice to catch up with him and have him take a look at it. He doesn't have to tell me much, just a slight grip change."

The 24-year-old comes into this year's event ranked seventh in the world, although he is the top seed in the Ben Hogan bracket thanks to the withdrawals of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, and faces former US Ryder Cup player Boo Weekley in the opening round on Wednesday.

Victory over Weekley could set up a clash with Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood in the second round - Westwood faces rising star Harris English - with 10 of Europe's heroes from the 'Miracle at Medinah' in the 64-man field.

Also in the Ben Hogan bracket, 2010 winner Ian Poulter takes on American Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia faces Australian Marc Leishman - the European pair could meet in the last 16 - while US Open champion Justin Rose is top seed in the Gary Player bracket and takes on Scott Piercy.

The winner of that match will face the winner of the clash between Ernie Els and debutant Stephen Gallacher, while past and present BMW PGA Championship winners Luke Donald and Matteo Manassero face each other in an intriguing contest.

Francesco Molinari takes on Danish veteran Thomas Bjorn, while Austria's Bernd Wiesberger has the daunting task of taking on defending champion Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar has a 15-3 record in this event having reached at least the quarter-finals in the last three years, but does not believe match play requires a large change in strategy from stroke play.

"It's rare that the occasion pops up where I deviate from how I would play a stroke play event," Kuchar said. "I think you have to try to hit the best shot for the situation, just like you would in stroke play.

"There are pins that aren't ever worth going for. You may occasionally have to change a strategy or maybe be more aggressive if you know that the opponent is in with a tap-in birdie, but for the most part my strategy stays the same."

Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano also has a tough task against American Hunter Mahan, who is 11-1 over the last two years after winning the title in 2012 and losing out to Kuchar in last year's final.

Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer takes on Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell faces the big-hitting Gary Woodland and Mikko Ilonen is up against the in-form Bubba Watson, winner of the Northern Trust Open on Sunday.

European number one Henrik Stenson is the top seed in the Bobby Jones bracket and faces Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

0Comments
Get the Bing Sports App for Windows 8 (© Microsoft)

latest golf news

  • Stephen Gallacher made an early exit in Wales

    Stephen Gallacher headed home in relaxed mood on Friday despite seeing his Ryder Cup preparations cut short with a missed cut in the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

  • Club secretary Peter Dawson confirmed on Thursday that the R&A is now a mixed membership club

    The decision of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to vote in favour of allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history met with universal approval on Thursday.

  • Joost Luiten set the pace at Celtic Manor

    The Ryder Cup continued to dominate the agenda at the ISPS Handa Wales Open, even though none of the four European team members competing at Celtic Manor featured high on the leaderboard.

  • Charley Hull, pictured, welcomed the R&A's decision to allow women members

    A "significant" number of women will be fast-tracked towards membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews after the club voted to end its male-only membership policy after 260 years.

  • Trish Johnson held the lead in Tenerife

    England's Trish Johnson shot a stunning 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Tenerife Open de Espana Femenino.

  • Gary Player, pictured, believes Rory McIlroy will definitely win the career grand slam

    Rory McIlroy will be Europe's talisman at next week's Ryder Cup and then go on to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam, according to Gary Player.

  • Paul McGinley, right, and Tom Watson, left, are dreaming of very different outcomes at next week's Ryder Cup

    Rival captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson have outlined their visions for next week's Ryder Cup - and unsurprisingly they are completely different.

  • Paul McGinley is just days away from leading Europe in the Ryder Cup

    European captain Paul McGinley believes his side faces a "different threat" from the United States as they look to defend the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles next week.

  • Laura Davies, pictured, would love to be offered membership to the R&A

    Women who have made a "significant contribution" to golf will be first in line to join the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, if the club votes in favour of women members.

  • Tiger Woods has been unable to swing a club during his injury lay-off

    Tiger Woods is "in no hurry" to hire a new swing coach - as he has yet to swing a club during his latest injury lay-off.

  • Billy Horschel, pictured, finished three shots clear of Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy in Atlanta on Sunday  AP

    Rory McIlroy missed out on a £7million payday as Billy Horschel won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup title in Atlanta on Sunday.

  • Rory McIlroy, pictured, struggled to a closing 71 as playing partner Billy Horschel won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup title  AP

    Rory McIlroy admitted he was looking forward to seeing the back of his golf clubs for a few days after failing to land a £7million jackpot in Atlanta.

  • Greg Norman is expected to make a full recovery after his chainsaw accident

    Two-time major winner Greg Norman is expected to make a "full, speedy recovery" after injuring his left arm in a chainsaw accident over the weekend.

  • Karrie Webb suffered a heartbreaking defeat on Sunday

    Korean teenager Hyo-Joo Kim birdied the 72nd hole to win the Evian Championship in her first ever major appearance on Sunday.

  • Paul Casey claimed his 13th European Tour title in Holland

    England's Paul Casey was over the moon with his performance in the KLM Open, and he was not the only one after a unique hole-in-one prize was claimed on Sunday.