Rory McIlroy has matured into a wise golfer. He handles the media with style and is working hard on controlling his emotions on the course. Staying in control is important and the Northern Irishman is becoming better at it, year by year.
This week he heads to Austin Country Club to defend his WGC-Dell Match Play title and the world number three has a few ideas about how to tackle the format.
‘You have to beat the person that’s there in front of you. I feel like that’s been the best approach for me in match play is the golf course is almost irrelevant, in a way. It’s about playing the player that’s in front of you there on the first tee,’ said the three-time Ryder Cup winner.
‘It’s a sprint. It’s 18 holes. You don’t really have time to find your rhythm. You need to try to make birdies from the get-go. And that’s the approach I’ve adopted the last few years. And I feel like my match play record for the most part speaks for itself. I’ve had a pretty good record since I’ve turned pro in this tournament and in the Ryder Cup,’ he added.
Last year the 26-year-old went 20 holes against Billy Horschel in the group stages and 22 holes against Paul Casey in the quarter finals, and he took note of how tough matches can get.
‘Whether you’ve had to birdie the last two holes to win or win in extra holes, I think those experiences serve you well,’ McIlroy said. ‘It’s a bit like in the early stages of a Grand Slam tennis tournament – if you see a Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal or Novak [Djokovic], taken to four or five sets, it’s almost like it’s good for them to take that experience and be challenged.’
His Sunday 65 at Bay Hill proved that the former world number one is ready to compete, and he’ll need to bring that dominant, attacking approach from Wednesday.
On the other end of the match play spectrum is Jordan Spieth, who has very little experience in the format but played lots of golf at Austin Country Club while growing up. The world number one is famously consistent, but under the pressure of a firing rival could sink or swim.