The Masters 2014: No more toothaches for smitten Rory McIlroy

The Northern Irishman is heading back towards the standards set two years ago

Only 43 days now until Jack and Arnie hit the ceremonials at Augusta to get the first major of the year under way. The Masters is like Christmas, the fulcrum of the golfing calendar requiring a countdown all its own.

Occupying a key stepping stone in the build-up to Augusta is this week's Honda Classic, which kick starts the Florida swing. Since most of the players live in the Palm Beach area and surrounding neighbourhoods they can pretty much walk to work, or at the least sleep in their own beds.

One of whom is Rory McIlroy, who infamously walked home early last year, halfway through his second round citing toothache. And this after being pictured taking a chunk out of an outsized sandwich. "I made a mistake walking off the course and disappointed not just myself. Golf can be a frustrating game and emotionally tough. What's important, though, is that I've learned from that episode. I need to stay patient and play my way through the difficult patches.

"I had to mature, and I did. And through the lean times it was important to remind myself that it was my love of golf that secured my position as No 1 in the world. That passion for the game is something I'm really enjoying again."

McIlroy was knee deep in trouble on and off the course 12 months ago. He has since resolved the form crisis but not the turmoil surrounding his business affairs. The split with management company Horizon necessitated a return to court in Dublin on Monday to determine the extent of document disclosure ahead of a full hearing at the Commercial Court in the autumn.

McIlroy is on management company No 3, albeit his own on this occasion. "Management teams often have to consider other players in their camp when decisions are being made, and I think I outgrew that. I won't pretend everything in the future will be smooth sailing because obstacles will always present themselves and there will be highs and lows. Now that the decisions rest with me, though, I'll have to take the poor ones on the chin."

At least that process has had not impacted on his game, which is heading back towards the standards set two years ago. His victory here at the PGA National took him to the world No 1 ranking for the first time.

"It is one of my favourite events of the year and winning in 2012 was an important landmark in my career. Having a place in Palm Beach now also gives the tournament a kind of special feeling, nearly like a home event."

McIlroy is paired with Masters champion Adam Scott, who is making his first appearance of the year on the PGA Tour after a six-week break, and Billy Horschel, with whom he once did heated battle in the 2007 Walker Cup.

The contrast in mood to 2013 is obvious. McIlroy has stabilised impressively, posting five top-10s in his last five strokeplay events, including victory by a shot at the Australian Open, pipping Scott at the 72nd hole in Sydney last December.

Tiger Woods returns after a three-week break looking to put behind him a slow start to the year. Woods also took six weeks off over Christmas and has yet to tap into the form that saw him win the player of the year award in 2013 after five PGA tour victories.

Woods failed to make the final cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and finished 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic, but claims he is making progress. "My golf feels it's finally coming back," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam