Rory McIlroy may have seen more than his fair share of bogeys this year, but it’s members of the legal profession he is really sick at the sight of.
The 24-year-old has arrived at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the finale to the European Tour season as world No 6, without a win all season and an also-ran in the Race to Dubai as he comes to terms with his own “annus horribilis”.
It’s all a marked difference to 12 months ago when he pitched up in the desert on his way to topping the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It’s been an interesting year,” McIlroy said with considerable understatement ahead of the DP World Tour Championship, an event he won last year with five birdies in the last five holes.
The major distraction off the course for McIlroy is an ongoing legal battle with his former management company Horizon, a situation which he admits has had repercussions on the course.
“There’s definitely been a few things that have impacted [on my performance on the course],” McIlroy added. “I’ve had a few different things to think about and different things that occupy your head that really shouldn’t. It’s something that will be sorted out hopefully sooner rather than later. That’s the way it is and comes with the territory I guess.
“It’s something that I don’t really think any athlete or anyone should ever go through.
“I’ve seen more lawyers this year than I care to see in my entire life. It’s not something I ever want to go through again and I’m making sure that I won’t ever go through it again.”
McIlroy, who set up his own management company since the split with Horizon, has also struggled to get the best out of his new Nike equipment after signing a multi-million pound endorsement deal in January, while he walked off the course during the second round of his defence of the Honda Classic.
McIlroy did finish second in the Texas Open the week before the Masters, but was 25th there and 41st at the US Open, where he broke a club in frustration.
He also missed the cut in the British Open at Muirfield and labelled his own play “brain dead”, while even a share of eighth place in the defence of his US PGA title was not enough to help him qualify for the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, which is limited to the top 30 players in the money list.
However, the Irishman is hoping to end his European season on a high at a course he feels is well suited to his game.
He added: “Obviously a lot of stuff has gone on, both on and off the course. Every year that I’ve come here, apart from 2010, I’ve been in the mix to win the Race to Dubai. It’s a little bit different coming in this week and not having much to play for in terms of that [he is 46th], but I still want to try and finish the season off really strongly.
“I feel like this course really suits my game. I know it would be a great way to cap off the European season with a win.”
McIlroy man was in danger of missing out on this week’s event — limited to the top 60 on the Race to Dubai — until finishing sixth in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, only a third top-10 finish on the European Tour this season.
But the Ryder Cup star feels he is on the right track and enjoys proving the doubters wrong after each dip in form.
“I guess I learnt last year how to deal with the hype and this year I’ve learned to deal with criticism,” he said.
“Every year for me is still a new experience.
“I feel I’ve always thrived on adversity. I think back to the times when I had the collapse at the Masters [leading by four shots before a final round of 80 in 2011] and I came back and won the US Open because I wanted to prove to myself and other people that wasn’t who I am and that’s not the way I play under pressure.
“Last year at the US PGA was the same sort of thing. I went through a little lull of three or four months and people started to question things and I like proving people wrong. It’s something that I have to keep doing every year and hopefully I do that again this year as well.”
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