Rory McIlroy has hit back at his critics and insisted his game is not in crisis as he bids to rectify his “pathetic” Dubai Duty Free Irish Open record.
The world No 3 has missed the cut for the last three years but he admitted that he’s frustrated that his winless 2016 is being portrayed negatively when he has racked up six Top 10s in just nine stroke play starts and reached the semi-finals of the WGC Dell Match Play.
Gunning to get his season off and running with his first win for six months, McIlroy said: “It frustrates me, I guess, the negative spin that's being put on it.
“I know expectations for myself are higher than other players, but you look at my record this year with a third in Abu Dhabi, a sixth in Dubai, a third at Doral, fourth in the Match Play; my bad weeks are Top10s, basically.
"So it frustrates me that the narrative is, there's something missing in Rory's game or what's wrong with Rory when I don't feel like there's anything wrong.
“It's very close. It's very close, and I'm just not that I'm waiting for something to happen; I might need to make something happen, but it's not as far away as I feel some people think it is.”
Mcilroy left out a fourth place finish at Quail Hollow but with winning 2014 Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley suggesting at the K Club on Monday that McIlroy looks to be struggling for focus and confidence, the world’s media has been quick to get on the Ulsterman’s case.
Asked for his honest assessment of McIlroy’s 2016, McGinley said: “I don’t think his putting is his problem at the moment. For some reason his concentration levels are down and I don’t know why.
“I think he is just lacking a little bit of confidence because he hasn’t won for a while.”
McIlroy admitted on stage in a charity evening with Sir Alex Ferguson in Dublin on Monday that he was keen to improve his terrible Irish Open record.
He said: “As I just said in a radio interview there, my record is pathetic to be honest.”
The four-time major winner is determined to rectify that and prove the doubters wrong by getting a win that could set him off on another victory run that would close the gap on world No 1 Jason Day.
McIlroy roared: ”I feel very comfortable with where my game is at, and I know that if I go out and play my best or close to my best, that I'm going to have a great chance to win this week, next week, basically all season, because I'm in a really good place with where my game is.
“It just hasn't quite happened yet, and I'm trying to stay as patient as possible.
"But sometimes that's hard to do when you feel like you're playing really well but the results aren't quite there.
“So I just need to string four good rounds together in a tournament and I feel like from there, I’ll be off and running, and that could be the catapult and stepping stone to another great season.”
McIlroy admitted that he hasn’t always produced his best stuff in the Irish Open with his best finish in eight professional appearances coming on his debut at Adare Manor in 2008.
At a loss to explain why he’s had just two Top 10s and missed the last three cuts, he ventured: ”Maybe it’s the pressure of playing at home.
“We don't get to play at home very often and maybe trying a bit too hard or putting a bit too much pressure on myself.”
Since he took over as tournament host last year to help raise the profile of the event and build his Rory Foundation, the championship’s prize fund has been doubled to €4million.
He said: “There was obviously reasons I wanted to get involved in this tournament and one of those reasons was because I wanted to be here.
“I wanted to contribute something, where coming to The Irish Open was becoming more of a burden instead of being something that I relished and something that I enjoyed to do.
“Being able to get involved and not just play for myself but play for other people and help other people out, I enjoy that part of it.
“I want to come here. I want to help out. I want to try to make this one of the best tournaments in the world, and I feel like we've made a few good strides towards doing that.”
McIlroy is determined to join Christy O’Connor Jnr, John O’Leary and Pádraig Harrington as the only Irishmen to win the event since it was revived in 1975.
He said: “It would be huge. I think anyone that plays professional golf, they dream of winning their home open, whether it's an American dreaming of winning the U.S. Open or a German or a Spaniard or whatever.
“Winning your home open in front of your home crowd, your home fans, you don't get very many opportunities to do it, so it would be very special.
“As I said, my performances here over the past few years haven't been great, so I think it would make it even more special this year if I were to do it, not just because of how I've played but also being able to do it in front of everyone that has supported me all throughout the years. It's definitely one tournament that is missing from my C.V. that I would love to add.”
McIlroy has good memories The K Club where he was on the 16th on Sunday when Darren Clarke completed an amazing Ryder Cup performance with his third win from three starts.
He said: “I was on 16 when Darren beat Zach Johnson. It was an emotional day. I had been to Heather's funeral six weeks earlier.
“So to see the remarkable turnaround obviously from that day and seeing Darren and the boys to what unfolded, it was absolutely incredible.
“To just be a part of that and be there, it was a very memorable day obviously.”
Nobody has been under more pressure at The K Club than Clarke was that week but McIlroy is hoping the pressure of expectation can help him break his Irish Open hoodoo.
He said: ”I feel like some of the best golf I’ve played over the last few years has been when I've been under the most intense amount of pressure.
“At the start of my career, it used to intimidate me and make me tentative, but I feel like for the most part it brings the best out of me.
“Sometimes that's what I've been frustrated at this year — I've struggled to let that happen.
“Doral in the last round is a prime example; the third round at Augusta is another one, where usually it brings out the best in me, and this year I just haven't let it be that way.
"But yeah, I'd love to put myself in another pressure situation this week to have a chance to win and hopefully I can change the way it's been going and turn it into something positive.”