Rory McIlroy is laying the foundations for ‘one of the greatest careers’
After an injury-hit year, the Northern Irishman is hungry for more success
The British Masters teed off this morning with a number of the European Tour elite hoping to impress watching Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.
Sergio Garcia, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett are just three of the big names in action at the tournament hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House in Newcastle. But all eyes are on another of Europe’s top golfers: Rory McIlroy.
The world No. 6, who started his British Masters campaign with a three-under 67 today, confirmed his participation in the event after revealing that he feared for his Ryder Cup place. With a minimum five starts needed to fulfil the European Tour membership criteria, McIlroy decided to head to the Northeast after missing out on last week’s Tour Championship in the US.
The Daily Telegraph’s James Corrigan writes that “many will laugh at the thought of the Tour stopping Thomas Bjorn from picking his main weapon” - but for McIlroy it was a “genuine concern”. He was granted an exemption in 2015 and did not want a similar situation arising.
“Why am I here? Because I want to play Ryder Cup next year and obviously I’ve got to play my five events in Europe,” McIlroy was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
“So that was a big factor in that. Lee [Westwood, the tournament host] asked me at the wedding of Sergio [Garcia] in July if I was thinking about playing but I was hoping to be in last week’s Tour Championship and take this week off.
“But obviously I didn’t make the Tour Championship, so needed to add one more in, and this was the obvious one.
“I didn’t want to put the European Tour in another sticky position. So I thought, yeah, I’ll play an extra one and not have to answer to the membership about why I didn’t play the minimum when I could have.”
McIlroy has suffered an injury-hit season and is without a tournament victory in 2017. But after the British Masters and next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship he will rest for a minimum of six weeks before preparing for 2018.
Ten years after making his professional debut in the British Masters at The Belfry, McIlroy is keen to achieve even more in the next decade. He believes the next three months could lay the “foundations” for the next step of his career.
“If someone had told me at The Belfry that in your first ten years, you’re going to achieve what I have, I would have been very happy,” McIlroy told ESPN.
“I would have been really happy. I would have been ecstatic, over the moon. But because of the experiences I’ve had in those ten years, and the golfer that I’ve become, I feel like the next ten years, I can be even better.
“So that's why I think these next three months [of rest] are going to be very important for my career going forward. These three months could give me the foundation that turns a great career into one of the greatest careers.”
Commenting on his opening round 67 at Close House, the Northern Irishman told Sky Sports he was feeling positive.
“I’ve been seeing some positives over my game in the last week as I’ve practiced,” he said. “My iron play is starting to get better. Wedge play is starting to get better.
“Those are things that I’ve really struggled with this year and feel like they are going in the right direction.
“We got great conditions. I felt like I played solid enough. I didn’t do anything great, but I didn’t do anything really bad either.”