It is a tournament that characterises the up and down nature of McIlroy’s career, not just over the past four years, since he won it in 2014, but even in the past few months, which has seen the sorts of highs and lows only McIlroy can produce.
This March brought his first win for over 18 months, when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and he was in with a great shout for the US Masters only to fade away on the final day at Augusta. He has also managed three other top-five finishes. But he has also had three missed cuts, and is looking for some consistency in his game — and is hoping another win at Wentworth can kickstart his season, as it did four years ago.
Following his 2014 victory, he went on to win the Open, the US Open, and and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in the space of a few weeks, and he’s hoping for more of the same. “I guess all you need is that spark or that catalyst,” he said.
I felt like my game was trending in the right direction in 2014, but didn’t quite have the win. I didn’t expect to win on that Sunday — I was seven shots behind going into the last day — so I just wanted to go out and play a good final round.
“It snowballed from there and I got on to a nice little bit of a hot streak and I’d love to be able to do something like that again. I’ve got a busy summer coming up, there are a lot of big tournaments to play, with three majors and the Ryder Cup. So maybe this could be the spark that gets that all going again,” he added.
McIlroy was delighted his great friend Graeme McDowell was named as one of Thomas Bjorn’s five Ryder Cup vice-captains earlier this week. “It’s great that G-Mac is involved and I know all these guys are passionate about helping out, on or off the course. Having their experience will be so important going into the matches, and I am absolutely delighted G-Mac’s there, which will be great for me and for some of the other guys.”
Bjorn caused a stir by naming such a big team to represent Europe in Paris in September, but McIlroy is not concerned. “At the end of the day you can have one vice-captain or five, but they are not the ones hitting shots on the golf course, which is what it comes down to. It comes down to who holes the putts at the right time. Look at Hazletine last time. The Americans just played better than us, which was down to the players on the course, not the captains.”
This is McIlroy’s first appearance of the year on European soil and he is hoping the work he has been doing on his swing with coach Michael Bannon will pay off.
“I did some good work in Florida last week on my swing, and if I can get my play a little bit more consistent and swing more consistently, that would be a step in the right direction.”
McIlroy played in Wednesday’s Pro-Am in a fourball with Manchester United legends Paul Scholes, Teddy Sheringham, and Michael Carrick and admitted it was one of the perks of fame that he can meet his heroes.
It’s great that I can play with some of my childhood heroes. I remember watching the 1999 Champions League final in Hollywood Golf Club!
He also, controversially, played golf with Donald Trump in February, and was asked about it again yesterday. “For a 72-year-old man he hits it all right,” McIlroy laughed. “Apart from that I played with him, had a good time, learned a bit more about what goes on in US politics and can’t say much more.”
Just as controversially, for a self-confessed United fan, he would not mind Liverpool winning the Champions League final. “I’ll be putting on my Real Madrid jersey for that,” he beamed.
“But I think it’s great a British team’s in the final and if Liverpool can start the match the way they did in the semi-final against Roma, they have a good chance. As much as I’m a United fan, and United fans are supposed to hate Liverpool, I think it would be great to see a British team win.”
The BMW PGA starts today and climaxes on Sunday, and McIlroy is aiming to win again. “I still remember the final round in 2014 and the stuff I did then, and hopefully I can draw on those memories this week.”