Rory McIlroy heads into WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in positive frame of mind
Last Updated: 19/02/14 11:39am
Rory McIlroy (c) during a practice round in Arizona with caddie JP Fitzgerald (l) and putting coach Dave Stockton (r)
Settled off the course and striking the ball superbly on it, Rory McIlroy says he heads into this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship "in a good place".
This time last year McIlroy arrived in Arizona on the back of a missed cut in Dubai and promptly fell to a first-round defeat to Shane Lowry in a match delayed 24 hours by heavy snow at Dove Mountain.
It marked the start of a largely miserable 2013 for McIlroy who - having just signed a multi-million dollar equipment deal with Nike - struggled badly for form and became embroiled in legal battles over his commercial activities.
Twelve months on and McIlroy cuts a far more positive figure following a couple of impressive early-season outings and believes the stability in his life away from the course is undoubtedly helping his game.
"It's much more settled, I can just go about my business and play my golf," the 24-year-old told reporters. "Everything is in a good place, the game is in good shape I feel.
"Compared to this time last year, it's so different. I don't have to go through any changes in equipment, don't have to answer the questions. It's also nice to be wearing a t-shirt, not have to wear any sweaters or mittens.
"I haven't hit the ball as well for a long time. It's been a good start to the season. I have two events under my belt (in Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and had a chance to win both of them.
"I was a little disappointed with how I putted at the weekend in Dubai but have spent two days with (putting coach) Dave Stockton here and it was nice to catch up with him and have him take a look at it. He doesn't have to tell me much, just a slight grip change.
"It has been a nice positive start to the season, I have just tried to continue that the last couple of weeks, practiced hard. I have worked hard and I feel like I'm seeing the results of that now."
McIlroy - who plays America's Boo Weekley in the first round - acknowledges a fast start is imperative this week in Tuscon with the cut-throat nature of match play leaving every competitor vulnerable to an early exit regardless of how they perform.
But, having reached the final back in 2012, the Northern Irishman knows what it takes to go deep in the Arizona desert and insists he will simply focus on each match in isolation.
"You have to get off to a fast start and be ready to go from the get-go," McIlroy continued. "You have to choose your time to be aggressive but you have to get as many birdies as you can.
"I know I'm playing Boo. I haven't looked at it after that, you just have to take it one match at a time.
"I could shoot a 67 and be going home. It's hard to even put a number. If I get to the quarter-finals it's a good week."