McIlroy targets return to major glory in 2020 after tour triumphs

By Sports Desk December 24, 2019

Rory McIlroy is determined to carry his regular tour form into the majors in 2020 - and he knows a fast start is the missing component that has held him back.

The 30-year-old Northern Irishman remains stuck on four major victories, having not won one of golf's four biggest tournaments since his 2014 US PGA Championship success.

He enjoyed a stellar 2019 though, carrying off four titles including the Tour Championship in August, when he pocketed prize money of $15million as the FedEx Cup winner.

That triumph at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta flushed McIlroy with confidence, and it was little surprise he carried off the WGC-HSBC Champions trophy in Shanghai in November.

The regrets from his year are obvious, with McIlroy not seriously contending at the business end of any of the majors, despite grinding out top-10 finishes at the US PGA and the U.S. Open.

At the Open Championship, held at Royal Portrush, McIlroy had a nightmarish opening 79 and a sparkling 65 on the Friday could not stop him missing the cut in front of his home supporters.

"The majors weren't what I wanted, but I played a lot of good golf and I think I played some good golf within the major championships as well," McIlroy told Sky Sports News. "I shot a few good scores. I just need to start a little faster, that's the big thing for me.

"If there's a key to me starting to contend more regularly and win majors again, I just need to start a little better."

It sounds obvious and is, and the more McIlroy puts himself immediately in the frame to win at regular tour events, the more starting at least solidly should become second nature.

He is moving in a positive direction, with the world number two putting pressure on Brooks Koepka at the top of the rankings.

It was fending off playing partner Koepka's challenge on the final day of the Tour Championship that put a spring in McIlroy's step and has convinced him he can land more of the big pots.

"I'd say the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup meant the most because it was Brooks in the final group and it meant a little more to me just because he is still ranked the number one player in the world," McIlroy said.

"There were a lot of tournaments I had chances in before the Players, even though it was still early in the year, and I felt there were questions about: Can Rory get it done? Can he close? Can he finish?

"That was huge to me. It proved to myself and it proved to other people that I can get it done on a Sunday when it matters at one of the biggest tournaments in the world."

Related items

  • McIlroy rules out playing in Premier Golf League, says money should not be driving force McIlroy rules out playing in Premier Golf League, says money should not be driving force

    Rory McIlroy has ruled out signing up for the Premier Golf League because he wants to be "on the right side of history".

    The world number one is opposed to the plans for the breakaway competition, which could see professional golf at its highest level experience a major split.

    England's Justin Rose has admitted the move could be financially appealing to many players, with an 18-tournament tour run by the World Golf Group set to offer annual prize-money of $240million.

    However, McIlroy wants no part of the proposed new tour, saying it would take away his "autonomy and freedom".

    "The more I've thought about it, the more I don't like it," McIlroy said on Wednesday.

    McIlroy also believes 15-time major winner Tiger Woods would have no interest in signing up for the league, and without commitment from such star names the project may be a non-starter.

    "The one thing as a professional golfer that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do," McIlroy said in a news conference, ahead of this week's WGC-Mexico Championship.

    "I pick and choose. This is a perfect example: some guys this week made the choice to not come to Mexico. If you go and play this other golf league, you're not going to have that choice.

    "I read a thing the other day where it said if you take the money, they can tell you want to do, so if you don't take the money, they can't tell you what to do.

    "And I think that's my thing. I've never been one for being told what to do, and I like to have that autonomy and freedom over my career, and I feel like I would give that up by going to play this other league."

    Referring to a bid by Greg Norman to form a new tour in the mid-1990s, McIlroy indicated he was happy with the modern shape of golf's tours.

    "People are looking at it purely from a monetary standpoint," McIlroy said. "I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just like Arnold [Palmer] was with the Greg Norman thing in the nineties.

    "I value a lot of other things over money and that's my stance on it at this point."

    The Northern Irishman added: "Money's cheap, money's the easy part. It shouldn't be the driving factor.

    "For some people it is, and we're professional golfers and we're out here playing golf to earn a living.

    "But at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.

    "Tiger's 44, he's got two young kids, he's openly said last week he wants to play 12 times a year. This league's proposing 18 [tournaments] so he's not going to do it."

  • Koepka: Reed 'building sand castles' during Hero World Challenge controversy Koepka: Reed 'building sand castles' during Hero World Challenge controversy

    Brooks Koepka believes Patrick Reed was fully aware of his actions when he flattened out a bunker to improve his lie during the Hero World Challenge in December, saying he was "building sand castles".

    Reed was penalised two strokes for his actions on the 11th hole at the Albany Golf Club in The Bahamas in December, as video footage showed him twice hacking away sand in a bunker during practice swings.

    Golf's rules state that players cannot improve their ability to play a shot by "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil".

    The American made a bogey but was subsequently handed a two-stroke penalty upon the completion of his round.

    After accepting the penalty, Reed defended his actions, insisting he had not intended to move the sand.

    However, world number one Koepka is convinced Reed knew what he was doing.

    "Yeah. I don't know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand, but you know where your club is," Koepka said in an interview on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio when asked if Reed had cheated.

    "I took three months off and I can promise you I know if I touch sand. If you look at the video, obviously he grazes the sand twice and then he still chops down on it."

    "It goes on a little bit more than people think," Koepka added of players improving lies.

    "I haven't opened my mouth. But now if I saw it, just because of where I'm at in the game, the stature that I have, I would definitely say something."

  • Mickey Wright, 13-time major winner, dies at 85 Mickey Wright, 13-time major winner, dies at 85

    Mickey Wright, who won 13 majors in an eight-year era of dominance and ranks among the greatest female golfers of all-time, has died at the age of 85.

    The American, once described by Ben Hogan as having "the finest golf swing I ever saw", died on Monday, the LPGA announced.

    Wright was born in San Diego, California, and won 82 titles on the LPGA Tour, including her haul of majors.

    She won both the Women's PGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open four times, landed the Titleholders Championship twice and also earned three wins at the Western Open.

    The latter two ranked as majors at the time of Wright's victories but are no longer part of the tour calendar.

    After retiring at the age of 34, Wright moved to Port St Lucie in Florida - where she spent the rest of her life.

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said: "We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mickey Wright. We lost a legend, but we may also have lost the best swing in golf history today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends."

    Only fellow American Patty Berg, who won 15 times from 1937 to 1958, has landed more majors than Wright.

    Ten-time major winner Annika Sorenstam, a modern-day great, wrote on Twitter: "I am very sorry to learn about the passing of golf legend, Mickey Wright.

    "She was one of the best women's golfers of all time and by many accounts had the best swing in golf history.

    "I have always respected Mickey and the way she chose to quietly go about her business and stay out of the limelight after she stopped playing.

    "We are grateful for her many contributions to the game. May she rest in peace."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.