Rory McIlroy admitted that last year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was one of the lowest points of his career.
The Northern Irishman has always had to deal with lofty expectations but never more so than when suiting up in the blue and gold of Europe, carrying the hopes of a continent on his shoulders. Such pressure is eventually going to take its toll, and McIlroy failed to deliver anything like his best form as Padraig Harrington’s side were blown away on the shores of Lake Michigan in record-breaking fashion.
Speaking to HSBC ahead of last week’s DP World Tour event in Abu Dhabi, the 32-year-old opened up on that experience, and detailed some of the soul-searching that was required in the aftermath.
He said: “Last year was a bit of an up-and-down year. It started OK then I had a bit of a lull in the middle. I felt like I was getting somewhere during the summer but then sort of regressed a bit.
“A big part of it for me was the Ryder Cup. That was probably the lowest I’ve felt for a while, so I had to reassess everything. Since then I’ve played three tournaments and I’ve played well - I won one of them and had a chance to win another one.
“I’m not saying the Ryder Cup was rock bottom but you need to go pretty low to figure things out at times and I think I did that and I think I showed some great resilience after.”
Having always ranked among the game's biggest hitters, McIlroy's game began to suffer in the early part of 2021 when he went in search of even more distance after being seduced by the exploits of Bryson DeChambeau.
A first win in 18 months at the Wells Fargo Championship appeared to signal a return to form, but it merely papered over cracks that burst at the seams come Ryder Cup Sunday. In an emotionally charged interview, McIlroy broke down in tears after beating Xander Schauffele, declaring that he felt he had let his team-mates down as the USA ran out 19-9 victors.
Thankfully, the four-time major champion has since rediscovered an appreciation for himself as a golfer and a person, something that is sure to stand him in good stead as he targets a six-win season in 2022.
He added: "I felt like I needed to be a different person to improve and to get better, almost reinvent the wheel in some way. I realised that that’s not the right way to go about it and being yourself is OK and being yourself is good enough most of the time, especially when it comes to golf and what I’ve been able to achieve before.
“Being OK with having that individuality, I think that’s really important. If we were all the same people, life would be pretty boring. I don’t need to try to be anything else here, I just need to be myself and try to be the best version of myself.”
McIlroy was grateful to get four competitive rounds under his belt in Abu Dhabi last week having made the cut on the number. He's back in action this Thursday as he bids to win the Dubai Desert Classic for a third time.
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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