The world number six struggled to score in the last two rounds of the Cadillac Championship, limping home a frustrated 25th alongside the injured Tiger Woods and sounding desperate for a confidence-boosting performance with a month to go before the Masters.
“It has been a tough couple of weeks because Honda isn’t an easy course and then you come here, it is almost like you forget how to make birdies,” said McIlroy, who plans to see a putting coach when he is in Palm Springs, where he will be watching Caroline Wozniacki play tennis this week.
“I am all for having a tough golf course and a tough test but it’s nice to make some birdies once in a while.”
Asked if he’d go to Doral if it were not a WGC event, he thought long and hard and said: “I don’t know. It’s a good question. Obviously it is a WGC, so you come.
“If it wasn’t? It is a tough course, it depends what you want — if you want to go and play tough courses and feel you will do well around them, or go to different ones where you will make birdies.
“It is a tough run. You have the match play, the Honda, here, Tampa which is no pushover and then Bay Hill which has got tougher over the years. It is a tough stretch of courses over these few weeks.”
Given all that transpired last year, McIlroy still has issues to resolve with his game and his psyche, despite the confidence-boosting win over Adam Scott in last year’s Australian Open.
“I am in a better place,” he said. “I came off the course frustrated but it is not just me.”
Others complained but not Graeme McDowell, who revelled in the cut and thrust of his battle with the Blue Monster — an insight, perhaps, into the differing mentalities of the two Irishmen.
Asked if he had any complaints about Doral, he said: “No. It was great. I’d like to see more setups like this on the PGA Tour in general. This is my type of golf. This is US Open, British Open golf. Bay Hill will be just like this; so this is my type of golf. I’m not going to complain at all about the setup. I quite enjoyed it.”
Not McIlroy though. Having contended but failed to win at Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then losing to Harris English at the 19th in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, McIlroy arrived in Miami seeking redemption, having fallen apart down the stretch in the Honda Classic.
All looked well after an opening 70 on Friday morning and McIlroy showed some grit by coming back from a poor front nine to salvage a 74 from the carnage of Friday afternoon.
The Holywood star went into the weekend tied for eighth place but it proved another false dawn, as the 24-year old struggled to a 75 in round three, dumping two balls in the water and running up a pair of tournament-wrecking double bogey sevens.
With his title chances all but gone going into the final round, Sunday only served to undermine his confidence a little more as he was driven to distraction by the set-up of the new Blue Monster and simply never made any ground as putt after putt slipped by the edge en route to a 74.
Confidence is crucial for all top players but McIlroy’s has not been boosted by some punishing tests recently and he’s got issues to resolve over the next month if he’s to go to Augusta National from the Shell Houston Open with high hopes of winning that first green jacket.
“I’ll be with Caroline as long as she is in the tournament at Indian Wells, then I’ll come back to Florida and spent two weeks at home,” he said of his immediate plans that involved seeing his swing coach Michael Bannon and putting guru Dave Stockton.
“I’ve got Michael Bannon and (fitness coach) Steve McGregor coming over the week of Bay Hill so I’ll do some good work then. I’ll prepare for Houston and head to Augusta to see the place there.
“I have one more tournament in which to get myself in the mix before Augusta. I feel my game is pretty much there, I am going to catch up with the Stocktons when I am in California this week and do some work with them.
“That should be productive, as should a good couple of weeks at home preparing for Houston and the Masters. Dave will probably come to Houston as well. I will see him for a couple of days in Palm Springs this week too, though. I’ll be in Augusta the Monday and Tuesday of Houston then get into Houston Tuesday night.”
The Holywood star is not too concerned about his swing but he made it clear struggling for pars is not the best preparation for Augusta and it remains to be seen how he will adjust his future schedule, given the venues.
“There’s nothing specific I feel I need to work on with Michael, it is just nice for him to get a look at me every now and again,” he said. “He was at the Honda but not here with me this week. He’ll be back for Houston and the Masters, as well.”