• WGC-Match Play Championship

McIlroy 'settled' after chaotic 2013

ESPN staff
February 19, 2014
McIlroy is yet to win a World Golf Championship event © AP

Following a torrid 2013 season, Rory McIlroy says he is back "in a good place" as he prepares his assault on his maiden WGC victory at this week's Match Play Championship.

Twelve months ago, McIlroy headed to Dove Mountain, Arizona, having just switched from Titleist to Nike in a reported $250 million deal and missed the cut in Dubai in his first event with his new equipment.

He promptly fell to a first-round defeat to Shane Lowry in a match delayed 24 hours by heavy snow.

McIlroy went on to spend much of the year struggling for form on the course, while embroiled in legal battles over commercial activities off it.

But the 24-year-old cuts a far more positive figure this time around.

"Compared to this time last year, it's so different," McIlroy told reporters. "It's much more settled. I can just go about my business and play my golf.

"I don't have to go through any changes in equipment, don't have to answer the questions. It's also nice to be wearing a t-shirt, not have to wear any sweaters or mittens.

"I haven't hit the ball as well for a long time. It's been a good start to the season. I have two events under my belt [Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic] and had a chance to win both of them.

"I was a little disappointed with how I putted at the weekend in Dubai but have spent two days with [coach] Dave Stockton here and it was nice to catch up with him and have him take a look at it. He doesn't have to tell me much, just a slight grip change.

"It has been a nice positive start to the season, I have just tried to continue that the last couple of weeks, practiced hard. I have worked hard and I feel like I'm seeing the results of that now."

McIlroy will open against American Boo Weekley in the first round on Wednesday, and hopes to go one better than two years ago when he lost to Hunter Mahan in the final.

"You have to get off to a fast start and be ready to go from the get-go," McIlroy added. "You have to choose your time to be aggressive but you have to get as many birdies as you can.

"I know I'm playing Boo. I haven't looked at it after that, you just have to take it one match at a time.

"I could shoot a 67 and be going home. It's hard to even put a number. If I get to the quarter-finals it's a good week."

If McIlroy takes a closer look at the draw, he will see he faces a potential second-round match with Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood. Click here to see the full draw.

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