Because of his strong finish to last year, Rory McIlroy is aiming to be one of ‘the best’ as he enters the new season, and he believes that taking a page from Tiger Woods’ playbook and opting for precision over power in the big moments will help him achieve that goal.
He believes he has “turned the corner” since the Ryder Cup last year, which included an impressive win over Collin Morikawa at the CJ Cup before losing a 54-hole lead to the Open champion at the DP World Tour Championship this year.
It is clear from the way McIlroy tore his shirt off in frustration following his tear-stained reaction to his Ryder Cup singles victory that golf continues to hold a special place in his heart. His flight from his Florida home to the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, he admitted, was spent thinking about his goals for the new year as he considered his options.
Because he now travels by private jet, he no longer writes down his objectives on his boarding pass – he does, however, keep track of them in a journal – but he has set himself an ambitious goal for the coming year.
He said: “You’ve got to reset and aim high, so I suppose one thing I’d like to achieve is a six-win season. That’s something I’ve never managed – five is my best to date. I used to sit down on the flight to this tournament and write down things like: ‘I want to win five times; I want to win a Major; I want to win The Race to Dubai; I want to win the FedExCup; I want to do this or that.’
“And, of course, I still want to do all those things. Those things are great goals, and they are things to try to work towards. But I think the biggest thing for guys at the level that we’re at is to set goals you can achieve, regardless of whether other guys have the best week of their lives.
“That could be saying I want to hit over 60 per cent of my fairways. With how far I hit it, finding that many fairways could be a big thing for my game. That may mean throttling back and hitting 3-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway. Maybe just being a little bit more of a measured and a controlled golfer.
“I’ll certainly pick and choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it. But the best player of the last 30 years, Tiger, would pick and choose where he hit the driver. He played a very, very controlled game, and it didn’t work out too badly for him!
“I’m not saying that my game compares to his in any way. But there are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game. And I want my proximity inside 150 yards to be a certain number. I want my strokes gained in putting to be a certain number.
“I think having goals that I’m more in control of is the key. I can’t necessarily control if I win five or six times a year, because there’s so many other variables in there. But I can certainly control my strokes gained numbers, my strive to ensure my stats are better than they were the year before.”
McIlroy, on the other hand, said he would not get too worked up if his goals proved impossible to achieve because getting married and becoming a father have helped him gain a new perspective on what is most important in life.
He explained: “I remember when I first got to world No1, I thought, is that it? I kind of expected to feel like a different person, but it didn’t happen.
“And having a cabinet full of trophies doesn’t count for a lot at home. You still have to take the garbage out and fill the dishwasher, and do all that sort of stuff.
“You still strive to achieve your goals, and they are important. But I think towards the end of last year one of the things I’ve done better than I have for a while was in finding the joy in golf again. That’s when you hit the sweet spot; when you play for the sheer pleasure of it.
“There are a few more grey hairs than when I first played in Abu Dhabi in 2008. But I’m as excited as ever to be starting a new campaign – just as pumped for my 16th as I was for my first.”
Read the original article on Golf Monthly.