US PGA: Rory McIlroy aims to confound critics

Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans before going out on a practice round yesterday. Picture: Getty
Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans before going out on a practice round yesterday. Picture: Getty
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Rory McIlroy served up an interesting menu at the past champions’ dinner at the US PGA Championship on Tuesday – and would love his critics to be eating humble pie this weekend.

McIlroy won five times last year, including his second major by eight shots, to finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.

But he has yet to record a win in 2013 and labelled his own play “brain dead” after an opening round of 79 in the Open at Muirfield, where he missed the cut on 12 over par.

Switching clubs in a controversial multi-million-pound deal with Nike and spending too much time with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki have been blamed for such poor form, but McIlroy went through a similar “slump” last year just before leaving everyone trailing in his wake at Kiawah Island.

“I love proving people wrong,” the 24-year-old said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I loved sitting up here last year on the Sunday night and I proved a lot of people wrong. Maybe not necessarily in this room, but just people who had their opinions and said things and it was nice to be able to do that.

“I guess I’ve learnt to maybe not listen as much or not read as much, just sort of wrap yourself in your own little world or your own little bubble.

“I had to deal with it after the Masters in 2011 whenever people were saying, ‘you can’t come back from this, what’s he going to do, he’s blown his best chance to win a major’. Two months later I was able to win [the US Open]. I’ve dealt with it before and it’s just something that’s part of the job.”

Previous wins could also be key to future success, with McIlroy watching footage of his performance at Kiawah Island and other career highlights to get back into the right frame of mind.

“I’m feeling good,” the world No 3 added. “I’ve been watching a few videos of last year at Kiawah and watching some videos of some of my best weeks that I’ve played and it sort of lifted me a little bit and I took some good things away from that.

“First and foremost, I just haven’t been swinging it the best this year. I got into a couple of bad habits with my golf swing and it’s just taken me a little bit longer to get out of them.

“When you’re fighting that so much, it’s hard to play the golf that I want to play, which is fluid and free-flowing.

“Every time you play and you don’t play well, it sort of chips away at your confidence a little bit, and it’s just about building that back up. But I’m sitting here as confident as I have been all year, so I’m looking forward to getting going this week.

“I think everyone sees when I walk and I’m playing well, I have that little bounce in my step, so just trying to get that going again and trying to get that positive energy back. There’s been times this year where I’ve really got down on myself and that’s something that hasn’t helped at all, and something that I’m trying to get better at.”

As for that dinner menu, McIlroy opted for a goat’s cheese and beetroot salad to start, Irish tenderloin for the main course and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. “Everyone enjoyed the last two courses; I don’t know how the appetiser went down,” he joked.