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
10 reasons to make MSN UK your homepage (© Microsoft)

latest golf news

  • Open champion Rory McIlroy returns to action this week

    Rory McIlroy wants to use his Open triumph as a springboard to further success this season, but insists he has never thought about matching Jack Nicklaus' record haul of major titles.

  • Paul McGinley will not play at the USPGA Championship in Kentucky

    European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has withdrawn from the USPGA Championship due to a shoulder injury.

  • South Africa's Tim Clark won in Canada

    South Africa's Tim Clark shot a final-day 65 to snatch a victory away from Jim Furyk at the Canadian Open and earn his second PGA title.

  • Bernhard Langer also won the Senior Open in 2010.

    Bernhard Langer set new Senior Open Championship records as he blew the rest of the field away at Royal Porthcawl on Sunday to claim the title for the second time.

  • David Horsey, pictured, edged out Damien McGrane in a play-off to win the Russian Open

    England's David Horsey recovered from a front-nine collapse to force a play-off against Damien McGrane before pushing on to victory at the Russian Open.

  • Two-time champion Jim Furyk retained the lead in Montreal

    Jim Furyk will take a three-shot lead into Sunday's final round as he bids to win the Canadian Open for a third time.

  • Bernard Langer tightened his grip with a three-under-par round of 68 at the Senior Open

    Bernhard Langer will take an eight-shot lead into the final round of the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl.

  • Peter Whiteford rode his luck on day three

    Scotland's Peter Whiteford will hope to turn his season around when he goes head to head with Englishman David Horsey in the final round of the Russian Open on Sunday.

  • Jim Furyk surged into contention for a third Canadian Open title

    Jim Furyk moved into a share of the halfway lead at the RBC Canadian Open after he and playing partner Graham DeLaet both equalled Royal Montreal's course record on Friday.

  • Bernhard Langer leads the way in Wales

    German Bernhard Langer has taken a seven-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl.

  • Pamela Pretswell started well at the Sberbank Golf Masters in Pilsen

    Britons Pamela Pretswell and Amy Boulden are in the mix after the first round of the Sberbank Golf Masters in the Czech Republic.

  • The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews will conduct a postal ballot on whether to allow women members for the first time.

    The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews will conduct a postal ballot on whether to allow women members for the first time, rather than voters being required to attend a club meeting in person.

  • England's David Horsey extended his overnight lead in Moscow

    David Horsey recovered from a shaky start to extend his overnight lead to four shots after the second round of the Russian Open in Moscow.

  • Tim Petrovic shared the lead in Montreal

    Home amateur Taylor Pendrith was just one shot back as Tim Petrovic and Michael Putnam shared the lead after round one of the RBC Canadian Open.

  • Jack Nicklaus has told Rory McIlroy he can become one of golf's greats

    Jack Nicklaus has told Rory McIlroy he can become one of golf's greatest ever players if he chooses to.