Rory ready to put his head on the block again
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy insists his final group hoodoo is not getting into his head as he makes his debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

The Holywood star (29), who explained that he has yet to make up his mind about whether or not he will keep his  European Tour membership this year, has come up empty-handed in his last seven appearances in final groups.

After ending the 2018 US season with a front row seat for Tiger Woods' momentous comeback win in the Tour Championship at East Lake and started 2019 by finishing tied fourth behind a red-hot Zander Schauffele in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, he's looking forward to putting a stop to the chatter.

"No, I am committed to the journey where that is not a conversation any more," he said at the clifftop venue where Woods has won eight times, including the 2008 US Open.

"I've just got to keep putting myself in those positions. I am playing good enough golf to get myself there. 

"But going in the final group and being three behind, you are not supposed to win from that position. Give it a shot, yeah, and at least have a chance on the back nine.

"So I have just got to keep putting myself in those positions. I have another opportunity to do that this week and I feel like my game's in good enough shape to do that. 

"I am just on the journey of learning and getting to the point where I don't have to answer that question."

I am just on the journey of learning and getting to the point where I don’t have to answer that question.
— Rory McIlroy on his bad run in final groups

Now that he's married to an American and committed to a US-centric schedule he believes will make it easier for him to perform, he batted away a question about playing under the American flag, presumably in the event he takes out US citizenship.

"I play golf for myself," said the Co Down man, who became a US resident last year. 

"I don't play for anyone else but me. It brings me happiness, it brings me joy and a by-product of that is that maybe it brings other people happiness as well."

He's made no secret that he's playing more on the PGA Tour because it offers him the best competition with Woods one of 24 of the world's top 50 in action in a strong Torrey Pines field, compared to just 15 of the top 50 at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Asked if he was taken aback or disappointed by the backlash in Europe to his decision to play more in the US, he reiterated his determination to do what’s best for him.

The South Course at Torrey Pines

The South Course at Torrey Pines

“I am not disappointed,” he said. “I have done the exact same thing for 11 years in a row. I have done everything that has been asked of me to be a member of that tour and I haven’t made the decision this year if I am going to go that route or not again. 

“I am happy with my decision and happy to be over here and playing. Anything that makes my life and my performances better,  I am going to do that.”

He pointed to a conversation he had with Paul Casey about the detrimental effects of criss-crossing the Atlantic to tee it up in Europe.

“He obviously played well at the start of the season, won in Tampa,” McIlroy said. “As soon as he traveled back across the Atlantic to play at Wentworth, he felt like it knocked him back a few weeks. He didn't play well at the U.S. Open because of it, he didn't play well going into the summer and he felt it was because of just that back and forth travel.

“And I know the schedule has changed and we're not going to be doing as much of that in the future, but even the fact that I do live in Florida now, so if I were to go and play the Middle East, it's a 14-hour trip one way, it's a 14-hour trip back.

“That's over a day in the plane with the jet lag, time change, all that sort of stuff. Just trying to make my life a little bit easier and just try to get on the same routine more often, I guess.”

He tees it up on the tougher South Course with Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott as Seamus Power goes off on the North Course hoping to end his streak of five missed cuts in a row.

World No 41 Shane Lowry is looking to build on his brilliant Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship victory in Dubai, where he missed the cut for the third time in four starts on his last appearance there in 2014.

I’m sure that Pádraig will have a couple aces up his sleeve to make sure that the team is well prepared and fired up to retain that Cup
— Sergio Garcia on 2020 Ryder Cup captain, Pádraig Harrington

"I suppose it's been a bit of a whirlwind couple of days," said Lowry, who is joined at Emirates Golf Club by Greystones' Paul Dunne. "I'm obviously very happy to have won again. Really enjoyed the last couple days and I'm going to try and enjoy this week as much as I can."

Colin Montgomerie (55) is also in the field, and European's winning 2010 Ryder Cup skipper believes Pádraig Harrington is the perfect choice for the "tough job" of defending the trophy in the US next year.

"It's never easy playing away from home and on a course that will be set up for them, and he knows that," Montgomerie said. "But he's got a great bunch of lads, and the standard now, it's phenomenal."

Pointing to the respect Harrington commands from the players as key, he added: "He'll have it all worked out, you know. If he says something, they are going to listen to him, and it's vital that that happens in a team room environment."

As for Sergio Garcia, who was again forced to insist he'd settled his differences with Harrington years ago, the Spaniard also believes the Dubliner will be more than ready to take on the Americans.

"I'm sure that Pádraig will have a couple aces up his sleeve to make sure that the team is well prepared and fired up to retain that Cup," Garcia said.