Rory McIlroy will play in the final pair at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, looking to win and overcome a growing negative trend.
In 2018, the Northern Irishman failed to perform in the final group, as well as on all six times that he featured in the marquee group.
The six failures: The Masters, the World Golf Championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational, the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic and the European PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old did win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but that came courtesy of an 8-under 64 on Sunday from the penultimate group.
That win qualified him for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where McIlroy finds himself already in his first final group of 2019.
He’ll start Sunday three shots behind leader Gary Woodland and ready to use his education from last year to his advantage.
‘Another final group is great. Especially coming off the back of not being able to play as well as I would have liked in final groups last year,’ McIlroy said, after rounds of 69-68-68 have him 14-under on the Plantation Course in Kapalua.
‘So, to get myself right back in contention and see if I’ve learned anything from last year and try to put that into practice is great.
‘Every time you tee it up you learn something new, you learn something different, and you try to implement that into the next time you play. And I feel like I learned a lot from last year.’
When pressed on exactly what he learned from those missed chances, the former FedExCup champion admitted he lacked patience.
He tried to impose his will or gravitas against opponents from the outset, instead of letting the chances come more naturally.
‘I just forced the issue a little bit too much. A lot can happen in 18 holes,’ he explains.
‘My best round of the year was Bay Hill and I always go back to that and I should have learned from that. I wasn’t in the final group, but I was two behind Henrik (Stenson) going into the final day, and I was even par after six or five holes and I could have been 3- or 4-under.
‘But I just stayed really patient and just tried to play golf and let it happen and that patience was rewarded that day. So that’s the sort of mindset I need to try to get back into.
‘I don’t enter tournaments just to show up. I enter them to try to come and win.’
The good news for McIlroy and the chasers is that Woodland has held the 54-hole lead six times in his PGA TOUR career and has not yet been able to hang on.