After hopelessly missing the cut in last fortnight’s British Open at Muirfield, McIlroy got in contact with three of his closest mates – Harry Diamond, Ricky McCormick and Mitchell Tweedie.
The four headed out late last week playing a number of courses including his beloved Holywood where McCormick in now the resident pro.
McIlroy birdied the closing seven holes at a club where the trophy room is a shrine to the now 24-year-old.
“It was something I had not done for a long time and maybe it’s something I should do more often because it was needed,” said McIlroy.
“They had come to join me in Florida earlier this year before Quail Hollow and the Players Championship so that kind of worked as I played pretty good those two weeks as I had a chance to win again at Quail Hollow and then had a top-10 at the Players.
“So I just wanted to go back to Northern Ireland and play a little bit. I did some work with Michael [Bannon – coach] but it was just nice to go out and play with them for the sake of playing and not play as you have to. So we played some courses I played when I was growing up, and I was seven-under for the last seven holes at Holywood.
“Playing with them makes you realise why you play the game and why you started and that’s because you love the game and when you are younger, you would do anything you can to get out onto a golf course.”
Reams have been written on McIlroy’s life that has changed dramatically since he had last played for fun alongside Diamond, McCormick and Tweedie. And while he has just one week remaining before defending next week’s PGA Championship at Oakhill in upper New York State, it was at this week’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational a year ago that turned McIlroy’s game for the better.
A year ago, McIlroy met with former US Ryder Cup captain Dave Stockton who took him to task over his poor on-course body language. McIlroy heeded the advice and a week later, went to Kiawah Island to brilliantly capture a second Major Championship.
McIlroy met with Stockton earlier this week and it was much the same message dealing with McIlroy’s on-course attitude.
“Attitude, and it’s the same thing that Dave said to me last year that I’m trying to do again as if someone’s watching you from the outside, and that’s don’t let them know whether you’ve made a birdie or a bogey,” said McIlroy.
“It shouldn’t matter. That’s something that I’ve become a little bit too emotionally involved with my golf over the past few months. I’ve let it either get me excited or get me down, where I should really just not get too high or too low about it at all.”
Joining McIlroy in this week’s no-cut $8.75m (€6.6m) event is fellow Irish Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell. Lowry is competing in the event for a second time since making his debut in 2009 as Irish Open winner, and as he sat yesterday in a rocking chair in front of the caddie shack his only concern was getting out onto the golf course after being reunited with his clubs.
“I arrived here on Monday but my clubs didn’t arrive until last night, so it’s not the ideal preparation but then again it’s not the first time it’s happened to me,” said Lowry.
“This is about my sixth or seventh visit over to the States this year and I’ve got this week’s event and then I’ll drive up to Oak Hill on Sunday night for the PGA Championship.”