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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried