Rory McIlroy is willing to forgive the “stupid comments” emanating from outside the ropes as he looks to feed off the energy from the returning golf fans at this week’s PGA Championship.
McIlroy spoke many times last year of his struggles to cope with playing tournament golf behind closed doors when top-level competition resumed following the coronavirus shutdown, and he compared the lack of atmosphere to the eerie stadiums playing host to the Champions League semi-finals earlier this month.
It was, perhaps, no coincidence that he recently lifted his first silverware for 18 months in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, where large crowds followed his every move and helped inspire him to a one-shot victory – his third in the event.
And with around 10,000 spectators expected to be lining the fairways of the South Course at Kiawah Island this week, McIlroy is relishing the prospect of playing to the crowd – even the ones who shout “mashed potatoes”!
“It’s funny, ever since I was 16 years old I’ve had thousands of people watch me play golf pretty much every time I teed it up,” said McIlroy. “So playing in that environment for 14, 15 years and then having the complete opposite, it’s just different.
“I said at the time it was like playing practice rounds, when it’s easy to lose concentration. Everyone is used to a certain environment, whether you work or whatever you do.
McIlroy, who admitted his PGA Championship victory at Kiawah Island in 2012 “feels like a lifetime ago”, was delighted with how he dealt with the pressure of leading down the stretch at Quail Hollow, and he hinted that his success came quicker than expected following his much-publicised swing problems earlier this year.
The 32-year-old missed the cut by 10 shots at The Players Championship and revealed he had been influenced by Bryson DeChambeau into chasing extra distance, to the “detriment” of his swing, and he has been working hard with Pete Cowen and Michael Bannon to iron out the flaws.
“I’ve always said when you’re in the thick of it, it always seems further away than it is,” he said when asked about the progress in his swing.
“I guess the big thing that I was really encouraged with at Quail Hollow is it was my first time really getting myself into contention in a while, and to have those thoughts and movements hold up under that pressure, trying to win a golf tournament, coming down some really tough holes, that’s what I was really pleased with.
“The two shots on 16, the tee shot into 17, obviously the tee shot into the last wasn’t great, but I got away with it. But to hit the shots exactly the way I wanted to and play those holes very well with a lead, that’s something that I haven’t been able to do probably over the last 18 months, going back to the start of 2020.
Taken from – Sky sports