A refreshed Rory McIlroy will seek to put his Open Championship heartache behind him as he focuses on the “weird” task of winning a record third FedEx Cup title.
McIlroy held a two-shot lead midway through the final round at St Andrews and carded a bogey-free closing 70, but that was not enough to end his eight-year major championship drought.
Australia’s Cameron Smith claimed the Claret Jug after firing eight birdies – including five in a row from the 10th – to card his second 64 of the week and finish 20 under par, beating the previous best of 19 under on the Old Course set by Tiger Woods in 2000.
“That night was tough,” McIlroy admitted in a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the FedEx St Jude Championship.
“The few days after it were OK I guess. It probably took me three or four days to sort of get back to myself again. But I think what softened the blow a little bit is I felt I didn’t lose it.
“The fact that Cam went out and shot 30 on the back nine, that made it a little easier to get over. It’s not as if I went out there, shot 75. I went and played a solid round of golf, didn’t get as much out of it as I was hoping for, but I think because of how I played, it made it I guess just a little easier to get over.”
Asked if he was left wondering just what he has to do to claim a fifth major title, McIlroy added: “No, I think it’s more if I keep playing like that in major championships, the law of averages suggests that I’m going to get myself back in the winner’s circle eventually.
“I played really solid, I shot 18 under par around St Andrews for four days and it wasn’t quite good enough to get the job done. If I keep playing the way I’ve been playing in the bigger tournaments, again, as I said, the law of averages would suggest that I’m going to get myself a trophy at some point.”
McIlroy revealed that he took two weeks off after the Open, joking that he “didn’t touch a club, didn’t see the inside of a gym, probably didn’t eat a vegetable”.
But the world number three got back to business at home in Florida last week as he bids to become the first player to win three FedEx Cup titles and claim the 18million US dollars (£14.9million) bonus.
The player with the most FedEx Cup points starts the season-ending Tour Championship on 10 under par, with the second-highest points earner on eight under and so on, on a sliding scale.
“It’s a weird one. It’s like you have to play consistently good golf over the course of a 30-week season and then you have to get hot at the end of it again as well,” added McIlroy, who is currently sixth in the standings.
“I think it’s hard to win, especially with the format in Atlanta now because it really gives an advantage to the guys that have played well leading up to the Tour Championship.”
Former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has withdrawn from this week’s event with a neck injury.
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