Golf

Published: Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 5:27:02 AM
Updated: Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 5:28:01 AM

McIlroy reaps rich rewards after total immersion in game

LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Having immersed himself in golf since the breakup three months ago of his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, Rory McIlroy has reaped rich rewards with a sizzling run of form at the game's highest level.

Just days after saying he was not ready for marriage, the Northern Irishman clinched the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth in May, then won last month's British Open and the PGA Tour's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in successive starts.

Brimming with confidence heading into this week's PGA Championship where he was labelled as an overwhelming favourite, McIlroy has lived up to that billing by storming into the early lead in the second round at Valhalla Golf Club.

"I've put a little bit more time into my golf and refocused me in a way," world number one McIlroy told reporters after firing a four-under-par 67 on a rain-sodden Valhalla layout.

"I just immersed myself in my game. I've practised hard and I've done all the right things, and I'm reaping the rewards."

Asked how much more time he had been putting into golf, the three-times major winner replied: "It's hard to really say. I guess, what else do I have to do? I get up in the morning, I go to the golf course, I go to the gym.

"It's just my life at the minute, you know. It obviously works pretty well, so I'm going to keep doing it. I always feel like I've practised pretty hard ... over the past couple of months, I've really just buried myself in my golf game."

McIlroy, who won his first major title at the 2011 U.S. Open before adding a second with the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, said he had learned how to become a successful front-runner after his spectacular meltdown at the 2011 Masters.

NIGHTMARE DAY

The Northern Irishman had led by four shots going into the final round that year at Augusta National but then suffered a nightmare day as he tumbled out of contention with a closing 80.

"It's taken me a couple of years to grow into that where I am comfortable (leading), and my mind-set has stayed the same since that day at Augusta," McIlroy said.

"If I'm two ahead going into the weekend here, I'm going to try to get three ahead; and if I'm three ahead, I'm going to try to get four ahead; and if I'm four ahead, I'm going to try to get five ahead.

"I'm just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. That is my mind-set whenever I'm leading the golf tournament."

McIlroy, who stormed to victory by a record eight shots at the 2012 PGA Championship, is relishing his golf at the moment and was delighted with his ability to stay patient in tough scoring conditions on a wet Valhalla layout.

"Another very solid day's work," he beamed after mixing an eagle with four birdies and two bogeys to post a nine-under total of 133. "You needed to stay really patient, because the rain was coming down pretty heavily at times.

"It was just about managing your game, putting the ball in the fairway and trying to put it somewhere on the green. Really happy with the day's work and another great chance to win a major championship going into the weekend."

Asked what winning a fourth career major title, and a second in succession, would mean to him, McIlroy replied: "It would be big. I don't know what else to say.

"There's a lot of golf left to play, as you said, and I'm going to try my best to just keep what I've got and keep doing that."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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