Rory McIlroy: “I had to ask myself some tough questions”

Rory McIlroy’s record-breaking end to 2022 has got everybody excited again. It feels like the start of something special…

It’s been just over 15 years since a fresh-faced, floppy-haired Rory McIlroy burst onto the scene, taking home the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at the 2007 Open. He was just 18 at the time, living at home and bouncing between fairways like a Duracell Bunny. He turned pro just two months later and became the youngest player ever to earn a European Tour card after finishing third at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on just his second professional start. The records have kept tumbling ever since.

At the 2011 US Open, he set 11 records on the weekend, including the lowest total 72-hole score, when he won by eight strokes to claim his maiden Major title. He added three more before his 26th birthday, a feat matched only by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

There have been other firsts and accolades too, though few have been quite as impressive as last year when he made history as the first player to end the year as European Tour No.1, World No.1 and FedEx Cup champion.

Ordinarily, it would go down as one of the all-time great seasons, yet people will probably remember it more for his near miss at St Andrews – or the fact he finished inside the top eight in all four Majors and failed to win any of them.

Rory knows he will always be judged to a higher standard, which is why 2023 feels like such a big year.

By his own estimations, his game has never been in a better shape, which is just as well given the Ryder Cup is just around the corner. And while it might sound like a familiar tale, there’s a huge body of evidence to suggest that he’s ready to shoulder the pressure to perform and end a nine-year wait for another Major win.

Rory McIlroy holed an incredible bunker shot on the final hole of the 2022 Masters at Augusta

RORY ON… Taking encouragement from his 2022 performances in Majors

“If I keep playing like that in Major championships, the law of averages suggests that I’m going to get myself back in the winner’s circle eventually. I played really solid, I shot 18 under par around St Andrews for four days and it wasn’t quite good enough to get the job done. So, if I keep playing the way I’ve been playing in the bigger tournaments, as I said, the law of averages would suggest that I’m going to get myself a trophy at some point.”

Rory McIlroy wasn't happy with his 2020 Ryder Cup performance

RORY ON… Pressing the reset button

“The real low point for me was the Ryder Cup (in 2021), I had a terrible Ryder Cup individually, played poorly, didn’t really help my team that much at all. I think that was like the reset button for me. It’s never fun to feel like you’re not getting the best out of yourself. I sort of had to think about things and ask myself some tough questions, and thankfully I’ve come out the other side of it and I’m better for that experience.”

Rory McIlroy is a hugely popular character on the PGA Tour

RORY ON… Banging the drum for the PGA Tour

“I’m speaking up for what I believe in. I don’t see how (LIV Golf) having 48 cherry-picked players is growing the game in any way. There has to be pathways. There has to be meritocracy. You need to give someone the opportunity so if they are playing on the Challenge Tour, in a year’s time, two years’ time or five years they can be challenging for Major championships, which are the pinnacle of our sport.

“There is this pyramid and this funnel that has been so good for golf for so many years, and I don’t think it’s a broken system. So whenever something like this comes along that is incredibly disruptive and they are saying things about how golf needs to change, it doesn’t need to change.

Golf is the most wonderful game in the world. Could there be things that we could do to make it more entertaining from a TV product perspective? Of course. That’s something that I think we can do from inside the walls. I don’t think we need to go outside of what we have already to figure that out.”

You can read the full exclusive interview with Rory McIlroy on the Today’s Golfer Members’ website.

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