Two weeks after describing his own golf as “brain dead”, Rory McIlroy today admitted he needed to be less emotionally involved in his game.
McIlroy missed the cut in the Open Championship at Muirfield, delivering a withering assessment of his performance after an opening round of 79 that was followed by a 75 to finish 12 over par.
The 24-year-old Northern Irishman won five times last year, including his second major by eight shots in the US PGA Championship, to finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
But he has yet to record a win in 2013 since a controversial multi-million pound switch to Nike in January, also damaging his reputation by walking off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic and bending one of his new clubs out of shape during the final round of the US Open.
Down to third in the world, McIlroy hopes some relaxed rounds of golf at home with friends and advice from putting coach Dave Stockton can kickstart his season at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron – just as it did 12 months ago.
“I was sitting up here this time last year not feeling as if my game was in great shape,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference. “I’m sitting up here this year a lot more positive and that’s a great sign.
“It’s a course (Firestone Country Club) I feel I can do well on and if something similar can happen to last year when I was fifth, that would set up for the last major of the season and a great end of the year.
“It’s been up and down (since the same time last year). I’ve had some great weeks and wins and had some very average ones as well. It’s like everything, you are going to have ups and downs. My highs have been incredibly high and my lows have been pretty low so it’s about trying to make it more on an even keel.”
McIlroy spent four days in Monaco last week and the weekend in Northern Ireland, where he was seven under par for the last seven holes of one of those rounds with friends.
“It’s nice to just go out and play for the sake of playing, not because you have to,” he said. “It makes you realise why you play the game, why you started because you love the game.
“When you were younger you would do anything you could to get out on the golf course. It’s great to just play with friends you have grown up with, it brings you back and makes you realise why you play this game.”
Stockton has also reiterated his advice to McIlroy that he needs to smile more and have better body language on the course, even when things are not going well.
“I’ve always said it’s easier to smile when you are making birdies, but the thing he said last year that I am trying to do again is that if someone is watching you from the outside, don’t let them know whether you have made a birdie or a bogey,” said McIlroy, who will play the first two rounds at Firestone with Canadian Open winner Brandt Snedeker.
“I’ve become a little too emotionally involved with my golf over the past few months and let it either get me excited or down where I should not get too high or too low.”
US Open champion Justin Rose and Open winner Phil Mickelson have been paired together, while Tiger Woods is alongside Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who finished sixth at Muirfield despite a one-shot penalty for slow play during the third round.