A year he will want to forget for so many reasons has finally come to an end for Rory McIlroy, and even the Ulsterman admits he has plenty to think about as he enjoys some festive sunshine at his Florida home with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.
The golfing season ended for the former world number one with an 11th place finish behind Zach Johnson at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in California.
A week after he finally broke his duck for the year with victory at the Australian Open, the 24-year-old was back to the inconsistencies that have plagued him throughout a difficult 2013.
It was a year that McIlroy split from his management company Horizon – their differences are set for court action in Dublin – and a year that his relationship with tennis star Wozniacki was dragged through the front and back pages.
Little wonder then that the Ulsterman can hardly wait for his Christmas break and a fresh start in 2014 when he can focus, he hopes, on his golf game without the intrusions into his private life.
Speaking to the media after the final event of his year, McIlroy appeared to admit he is glad to see the back of 2013.
He told the Irish Examiner, “The way I play golf shouldn’t determine who I am as a person. That’s sort of been the case sometimes this year.
“I’ve got really hard on myself if I haven’t played well, and that’s sort of carried through not just in my golf game, it’s just how I am, my demeanor and everything. So that’s something I feel like I’ve got better at and something I need to continue to get better at.”
Looking back at 2013, McIlroy added, “It was a year that, performance-wise, wasn’t what I wanted, but I guess I learned a little more about myself and a little more about my swing and about how the golf swing really works.
“What we have done well at the end of the year is how we work with my coach Michael Bannon in the off weeks. He leaves me alone during competitive weeks so I am not really working on things during tournaments, just to leave my mind a little clear.
“This has been my sixth full season as a pro, going into my seventh, so it’s quite a long time. It’s been good and most of the time it has been on an upward curve and I just plateaued a little, but this year in terms of performance.
“But I feel like I am working hard and the game is much closer than it was in the middle of the year. That’s the most important thing.”
Life in the public eye hasn’t appealed to McIlroy all that much in 2013. He would like some more privacy from the media in 2014, even if that is well nigh impossible as one of the most high profile sportsmen in the world.
The Holywood, Co. Down native confessed, “It’s been the first year where I have really had to put up with the scrutiny and criticism, and I guess you just have to believe in what you are doing and not let it get to you too much.
“I let it get to me a couple of times this year and it’s sort of a tough – not a tough position to be in, that’s not the right word – but it was a challenge for sure.
“What annoyed me was all the other stuff. I don’t care what people say about my golf, it’s all the other stuff. When they start digging into your personal life, then that’s where it starts to annoy you.
“Whether it is Caroline, whether it is management companies, it shouldn’t really be as a consequence as to how I play my golf. That gets at me more than anything else.”
A year ago McIlroy refused to confirm his multi-million switch from Titleist to Nike. Now he is finally coming to terms with his new clubs.
He continued, “Things are a bit more settled, which is a good thing. I’m not going through an equipment change, not going through any of that, which is good. I can actually afford to take a couple of weeks off, which is going to be nice.
“It’s been a long season, a long stretch, so I am excited to put the clubs down and have a few weeks rest and get back at it in the new year.”
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