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Golf Australia Express : Issue 26
We saw that, too, after the Masters where McIlroy admitted publicly he choked in pursuit of his first major. “I was leading this golf tournament with nine holes to go, and I just unraveled,” he said at the time. “This is my first experience at it and hopefully the next time I’m in this position I’ll be able to handle it better.” That he did. Fast forward to June and McIlroy was again the talk of the golf world after exorcising his Masters demons with a spiritual—and convincing—US Open win at Congressional. One major down and his journey was rerouted back on track. So was his confidence, which must have copped a severe beating after the Masters meltdown. IF EVER THAT CONFIDENCE would be tested again it was at The Honda Classic on Sunday. Leading by two- shots at the start of the final round, there was more than third PGA Tour victory at stake. Up for grabs was also the game’s top ranking with Luke Donald absent from the event. Add to that a rampaging Tiger Woods, who decided to pick that very moment to produce his lowest ever final round score of 62, and you get a sense of the mental mettle McIlroy needed to win. He showed plenty of it. Looking as confident at The Honda as he didn’t at Augusta, McIlroy held his nerve during several clutch moments through the notorious stretch called the ‘Bear Trap’ at PGA National to eventually come out on top. He kept himself calm and focused when things could easily have unraveled again. His win was a deserved one. With a newfound confidence in himself and his game, the Northern Irishman has started to project some of the invincibility a young Tiger oozed on Tour during the 2000s. McIlroy’s seriously improved his putting inside 15 feet. Ranked 155th from that distance in 2011, he’s currently leading the PGA Tour this season. “Even if I don’t play my best golf, I can still challenge, which gives me a lot of confidence,” McIlroy said on Sunday. “When I’m firing on all cylinders, I feel like I’m hard to beat.” His opponents must share the sentiments. Sunday’s win realised a dream that McIlroy says he’s been chasing since childhood. It was also something the golf world believed an inevitability. SINCE TURNING PROFESSIONAL IN 2007 as a pimply-faced 17-year-old, McIlroy has enjoyed a rapid ascension to the top— even if the man himself thinks it’s taken a while. Rory’s Masters meltdown in 2011 helped thim find the mental strength to become the world No.1. “ When I’m firing on all cylinders, I feel like I’m hard to beat.” PLAYER THE