McIlroy's real targets? More duels with Tiger

Short back and sides but he’s still got a mop on top. Rory McIlroy shows off his hairdo at Oak Hill. Picture: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieForget about his video reminders, his haircut, his desire to prove people wrong or his insistence on solving his problems his way. Rory McIlroy is looking beyond this week’s US PGA to the day when his game is back in shape. There’s only one gold standard and it’s not set by the press. Put simply, There’s just one man he wants to beat - Tiger Woods.

When asked about Tiger’s 79 tour wins, McIlroy said: “You know, I’d love to be able to get my game back to where I know it can be and be able to challenge him.”

McIlroy has had enough of the questions about his slump. It’s all about the swing, the rest is just noise:

“I guess I’ve learnt to maybe not listen as much or not read as much or not look as much.  Just sort of wrap yourself in your own little world or your own little bubble.  I had to sort of deal with it after the Masters in 2011 whenever people were saying, you can’t come back from this, what’s he going to do, he’s blown his best chance to win a major.  Come back two months later and was able to win.  Yeah, I’ve dealt with him before and it’s just something that’s part of the job.”

Thinking of blaming the clubs? Think again:

“I think it was a valid point at the start of the year.  I don’t think it’s a valid point now.  I mean, it’s nine months in.  Of course there’s going to be a transition period where you’ve got to get used to a few different things, but now, I mean, I don’t think that should be  I don’t think it’s a valid argument at all.  I’m really happy with everything that I’ve got in my bag, and I’ve had the best part of eight or nine months to play with it.  Yeah, it could have been a valid point in maybe January, February, but I don’t think it is now.”

Regrets? Not many. Though he did say he should have played more at the start of the year:

“What would I do differently?  I would have definitely played more at the start of this year.  That’s one thing I regret; I didn’t play enough at the start of the year.  I played Abu Dhabi and took like four weeks off.  I didn’t play and I needed to get into a run of events, and that’s something I should have done differently. But apart from that, that’s all I really  about this year, that’s all I would have done differently is just play a little bit more.”

Utterly sure of himself and his ability, he slapped down any talk of turnign to Bob Rotella or another mental coach despite admitting to mental frailities not once but several times already this year (Honda, US Open, The Open…):

“I don’t know, I guess I went through it before, and I feel like I know what to do.  So, yeah, I felt like I could figure it out myself.”

What’s bugged him more than anything is not equipment, management upheaval, Caroline Wozniacki or scheduling but his swing, and by association, his lack of confidence:

“I mean, first and foremost, I just haven’t been swinging it the best this year.  I got into a couple bad habits with my golf swing, and it’s just taken my a little bit longer to get out of them. 

Obviously when you’re fighting that so much, it’s hard to play the golf that I want to play, which is fluid, which is freeflowing, I guess.  That’s the way I play my best.

“Trying to work on my swing so much this year has not allowed me to do that, just because I’ve been trying to get the club in the right position to enable me to get the club in the right positions that I know I can play.

“There’s been that, and I guess just every time you play and you don’t play well, it sort of chips away at your confidence a little bit, and it’s just about building that back up.  But I’m sitting here as confident as I have been all year, so I’m looking forward to getting going this week.”