Heroes and mentors to the fore as McIlroy prepares for the Blue Monster
 Rory McIlroy and his boyhood hero Tiger Woods during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke  www.golffile.ie

Rory McIlroy and his boyhood hero Tiger Woods during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Everyone needs heroes but the pressure of trying to match their feats can sometimes be a millstone around the neck of even the most talented.

Take Rory McIlroy, whose ability to close is being questioned following his car crash performance for most of the afternoon in Sunday’s final round of the Honda Classic.

He made three birdies, yes. But Five bogeys and a double bogey are hardly Tiger-like numbers.

As recently crowned WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Jason Day pointed out, Woods made winning look so routine that Sunday’s carnage at PGA National came as something of a shock to the golfing public.

“You guys have been blessed by seeing Tiger Woods win for so many years and being No. 1 for I think 12 years now that people in general think it's easy to win,” Day said at Trump National Doral ahead of this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.

“It's hard. It's not easy to go out there and just do it. I mean, McIlroy played flawless golf over the first three days, and once again, The Honda Classic, the PGA National, is not an easy golf course.

“There's a lot of water everywhere. The finish is very tough. The back nine is very, very brutal. You get any sort of wind that's kind of swirling around and it makes it very tough."

Day and McIlroy have long had a mutual admiration and the Australian, who is now rated as one of the favourites for the Masters following a runner-up and a third place finish at Augusta National in the last three years, still saw positives from McIlroy’s performance in Palm Beach.

“Sometimes you come out and you play great and you feel good and there is no pressure on you,” he said. “Look at Rory’s wins at the US Open and the PGA — he won by eight.

“But sometimes you come out and it just doesn’t feel right and it just doesn’t happen. I just think this was more of a learning thing for him.

“He has had a win and two seconds in his last six starts. I just know he is going to win this year.

“He looks like he is in a much better place than last year and everything is kind of balanced and he’s engaged to Caroline.

“He seems very motivated. You can also tell when a player is really motivated and wants it.

"I’m expecting some pretty great things from him this year and that shot to 18 at the Honda was pretty special.”

 Jason Day is congratulated by Victor Dubuisson in Tucson. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Jason Day is congratulated by Victor Dubuisson in Tucson. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

It sounds odd to say that McIlroy, a player with two majors and six PGA Tour victories, has trouble closing. But he might well have added quite a few more Ws to his CV by now. It took him longer than many expected to win his first European Tour event but he is also a quick learner and the naiveté he showed down the stretch on Sunday, when he might have tried limping his way in rather than trying to play the top drawer shots when not at his best, may diminish in time.

Whatever course management mistakes he made — the tee shot on the 16th was arguably the crucial play  — he is a showman to the core and would have baulked at anything other than the high octane approach.

He had a three shot lead walking to the sixth tee but had to hit a career shot at the last just to shoot a four over 74 and make a four-man playoff, which eventually fell to Russell Henley. 

“I know exactly how they are feeling,” added Day, who had won just once on the PGA Tour before he saw off the limpet-like Victor Dubuisson to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson less than two weeks ago

“Sometimes you feel like you just want to curl up and run away. Some days you go out there and you feel like you can stay out there forever and play golf and it doesn't matter what golf course is in front of you.”

Day believes that Woods’ 79 tour wins just makes life harder for the young players coming through.

But he is convinced that McIlroy will take the positives from the Honda Classic playoff loss and especially the 245-yard five-wood he hit to 11 feet at the 18th that gave him a putt for the title in regulation play.

Day said: “For many years we've watched Tiger do it so easy and hit so many clutch shots that people expect everyone on the PGA Tour should be doing that.

“I really like hitting clutch shots and knowing that I can hit those shots. It's like watching Rory the other day on the 18th hole, knowing that he had to hit a good shot in there to give himself a chance of either getting in the playoff or winning the tournament.

“Shots like that are what you practice for."

 Victor Dubuisson chats with Spanish veteran Miguel Ángel Jiménez at Doral on Tuesday. Picture: Fran Caffrey  www.golffile.ie

Victor Dubuisson chats with Spanish veteran Miguel Ángel Jiménez at Doral on Tuesday. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ie

Like Day and McIlroy, Accenture Match Play runner-up Victor Dubuisson was also inspired by Woods, most particularly by the world number one’s victory in the 1997 Masters.

More fascinating that the Frenchman’s press conference was the interest he has generated in the US media since took Day at the 23rd in Tucson, producing two miraculous recoveries from the desert.

The 23-year is coy about his childhood and while he confirmed in Miami yesterday that he left school at the age of 10 or 12 and was pretty much “alone”, he refused to divulge more personal details.

"No, just no personal family questions," he said politely. "I don't like to think about that, sorry."

Now resident in Andorra, Dubuisson has found a mentor in former Ryder Cup player and Open Championship runner-up Thomas Levet, who has known him since he was a 14-year old amateur with the French national team.

Levet believes Dubuisson can create a boom in French golf but when asked if the player had confided in him about his childhood, Levet said: “It was not an easy childhood and you can ask him but he's not going to answer more than this.

“It was difficult, when you leave school at 10, 12, parents are not that much around because they need to work and it's difficult, so you don't want to talk about bad things with them. Just go with that, it's difficult, that's all.”

Describing Dubuisson — a self-confessed loner —as “sensitive”, Levet explained that his protege finds it difficult to live in the media spotlight.

Asked to sum him up with an anecdote, Levet said: “He just he made me cry one day, just telling me, ‘I've got pictures of you in my room, you’re my hero.’

“And you say, ‘Me? Your hero? Why’s that?’

“‘Because you're French, you won this and that, and I haven't done it.’ But he's on the way now.”

Having an experienced hand in your corner is crucial and one wonders who McIlroy relies on for golfing advice, apart from his caddie JP Fitzergerald and his father Gerry.

He's had many chats with Jack Nicklaus and his coach Michael Bannon knows his swing better than anyone. And yet when you listen to Levet speak about his relationship with Dubuisson and other French players, you wonder.

Asked his relationship to Dubuisson, Levet smiled and said: "I'm nobody. Nobody, I just from the start told him, you have a problem you can come see me and we'll talk about it.

"I'm like a big brother to him like, he needs to ask me something he knows he can knock on my door and call me any time, he has a problem, I'll be there."

Dubuisson is close to Gregory Havret, another player who has looked up to Levet  and relied on his for advice.

"When Gregory played there, he was doing very well he was in top-five for 27 holes and then on the back nin,e he started to play off the book that we wrote, off the strategy.

'Wrong club on no. 10, you know I told him, on No. 10 if you're in between two clubs take the shorter one, because short nothing happens to you, long you're dead, and he goes on No. 10 he has seven or eight, takes the seven, over the green, double bogey.

 Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in conversation in Dubai earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke  www.golffile.ie

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in conversation in Dubai earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

"Goes to 11, told him to play right, straight left, double bogey, and he missed the cut at the end. So the most important to put in their head that they need to keep on to the strategy and not even, whatever happens, it's only on the last five holes of the tournament that you have to go for broke or not depending on the situation but before that, to be in contention you need to have your book and just follow it and never go away from it.

"Why did Gregory do it? Because of the pressure, first Masters top five after 27 holes, pressure, and suddenly you want to do it better because it's already very good and then things happen until Sunday, and then Sunday maybe you threw it away.

 Graeme McDowell tees off on the 18th during a practice round on the Blue Monster on Tuesday. Picture © Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell tees off on the 18th during a practice round on the Blue Monster on Tuesday. Picture © Brian Keogh

"It's what people say, never come out of the moment, it's only a golf shot. What kind of golf shot am I prepared to do? And what did I see on that one and where should I put my ball this one? That's what is important and the role of guys like me for Victor is just to prepare him for this, it's not to tell him. 'Victor your grip is like that, do it like this', he knows that already."

Now ranked 23rd in the world, Dubuisson is in a marquee group at the revamped Blue Monster at Trump National Doral with world number 22 Hideki Matsuyama and 24th ranked Luke Donald.

The world's top 24 have grouped according to their ranking for the first two rounds at Doral with Tiger Woods expected to join Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, despite his withdrawal with back spasms after just 13 holes in the final round of the Honda Classic.

McIlroy will play with Day and Phil Mickelson while Graeme McDowell, currently 15th in the world, joins Bubba Watson and Steve Sticker on a course that has undergone enormous since it was purchased by Doonbeg proprietor Donald Trump and redesigned by Olympic Games architect Gil Hanse last year.

Card of the course for the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral