As well as winning four major titles and playing on three successive victorious Ryder Cup teams, McIlroy has won two World Golf Championship events and two FedEx Cup play-off tournaments, meaning the so-called ‘Fifth Major’ is high on the agenda.
McIlroy has finished eighth, sixth and eighth in the last three years at Sawgrass, but similar statistics so far in 2016 mean the 27-year-old is the only member of the world’s top five without a victory this season.
“Results-wise it isn’t what I hoped for,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference last night. “My performances have been pretty good, I’ve had a few chances to win tournaments. Of the nine events I’ve played so far I think I have six top-10s so it hasn’t been too bad, but there’s no wins in there. It’s been frustrating and especially because I feel like I’ve played some really good golf in this stretch, but at the same time there’s just been too many mistakes.
“Again last week I led the field in birdies at Quail Hollow, I was up there at Augusta.
“There’s just been too many loose shots, too many soft bogeys, so if anything I just need to tidy that up because I know I’m playing good enough to make the birdies and to post a lot of red (under par) numbers, but I just need to tidy up everything else.”
Despite those frustrations, McIlroy remains confident in his ability to “close” out tournaments down the stretch, reiterating that he learnt the most from his collapse in the 2011 Masters.
McIlroy, who was four shots clear heading into the final round at Augusta before slumping to a closing 80, added: “I don’t think I believed I was a good closer until 2012.
“My wins early on in my career I led by a lot; whether it was my first win in Dubai, I think I was six ahead with six to play and sort of fell over the line there. When I won at Quail Hollow in 2010 I was five behind at the start of the day and I ended up winning by four. I just got on a great run, I didn’t actually have to play with the lead for any length of time. US Open was sort of similar in 2011.
“At the start of ’12, whenever I needed to hold on on the back nine at the Honda Classic... Tiger (Woods) had shot 62, I was trying to get in the clubhouse and become world number one for the first time, that’s when I really believed I’ve finally been able to close a tournament out and be able to play the right shot at the right time and keep it together.
“It takes experience, it takes losing a few first I think before understanding what you need to do. I’ve always said the biggest learning curve and day of my career was that Sunday at Augusta in ’11.
“At least I know now exactly what not to do and what doesn’t work for me so when I go into these final rounds and situations where I have a chance to win, I know how to handle myself, what way to think.
“I think that’s the big thing, the mentality of learning what’s going to be a good score that day, what’s going to be the number that’s going to win and really try and forget about everything else and try to get to that number.”