RORY McIlroy has finally admitted that off-course matters have contributed to him heading into this week’s DP World Tour Championship seeking his first victory in 2013 – a year after he teed up in the same event in Dubai as the world No 1.
Embroiled in court cases on both sides of the Atlantic – he’s tied up in legal wrangling with his former management company, Horizon Sports Management, and his former sponsor, Oakley – the two-times major winner has slipped to sixth in the rankings since winning the European Tour’s season-ending event 12 months ago.
McIlroy had previously insisted there had “never been any distractions” to his professional life but finally conceded that events playing out in the background had been taking their toll this season. “I’ve seen more lawyers’ offices and more lawyers this year than I care to see in my entire life,” he said. “It’s not something I ever want to go through again, and I’m making sure that I won’t go through it again.
“As a golfer, you want your mind as clear as possible, and it’s hard for that to happen when you’ve got other things that are going on that, firstly, you don’t want to happen, and secondly, you don’t feel should be happening. It has been a distraction.”
McIroy, who was particularly tetchy when the subject of a management switch that was confirmed last month was first raised during the PGA Championship at Wentworth back in May, said he is ready to take advice from Tiger Woods about how to handle his off-course issues, though fans of the curly-haired Northern Irishman will hope that stops short of copying the world No 1 by saying little of interest in his media commitments.
“Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ and sometimes you have to put yourself first and say ‘no,’ and I need to do this for myself to maintain the level in my game,” added McIlroy, who birdied the closing five holes on the Earth Course at the Jumeriah Estates to pip Justin Rose and end 2012 winning both the European and PGA Tour money titles. “It’s something Tiger actually said to me last year. He said you have to remember what got you here in the first place, and you know Tiger, it’s ‘no’ 99 per cent of the time for him.”
McIlroy only secured his place in the 60-strong field for the $8 million Dubai event with his last throw of the dice in the HSBC Champions in China a fortnight ago but believes he can still return to the winner’s enclosure before the end of the year. He’s also got the Australian Open in Sydney and the Woods-hosted World Challenge in California to come, but especially fancies his chances this week.
“If I can drive the ball well and drive it long and straight, it gives me a huge advantage over most of the field and it’s something that when I’m on my game, I can really take advantage of, and I was able to do that last year,” said McIlroy. “This is a perfect golf course for that. If you can carry it over 300 yards, you’ve got a huge advantage on some of the guys here, and it’s something I’ll be trying to do this week.”
Rose, meanwhile, will tee up in tomorrow’s first round as the European Tour’s newest honorary member in recognition of his US Open win this year. “This means an awful lot,” he said.