Rory McIlroy hasn't won a title since September 2016 but he tells reporters in Abu Dhabi that he feels his drought will be ending soon.
Rory McIlory will play his first competitive round of golf in more than three months when he tees it up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Thursday – but the world number 11 is adamant a first win in nearly 16 months isn’t far away.
The Northern Irishman hasn’t tasted victory since the Tour Championship in September 2016 and hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He curtailed his 2017 season in October following the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, citing a rib injury, although it transpired days ago that the issue was a more serious heart irregularity.
It followed him suffering a viral infection in China 18 months ago, but the four-time major winner insisted “it’s nothing” as he looks to get back on track following the longest break of his career.
“I’d love to win again. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than winning a golf tournament. But I don’t feel like it’s that far away,” McIlroy, 28, said at his press conference ahead of this weekend’s 13th Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
“I’ve practiced and I’ve played. Obviously not competitively in a proper tournament, but I’ve shot some really good scores over the past few weeks, it’s different doing that to being out here on Thursday and really having a card in your hand.
“But from everything that I’ve seen in practice and playing over the past few weeks, there’s no reason to think that it’s not that far away.”
Asked if he needed to return to winning ways in order to boost his chances of winning the Masters in April, McIlroy added: “I don’t need to but I’d love to. It would be ideal if I were to win one of these next eight events, it would be great for my confidence going into Augusta.
“But even if that doesn’t happen, hopefully I can take a lot of confidence from things that I’ve seen in my game, maybe even if the results don’t quite come my way, but I’d love to.
“It’s been, what is it, 14, 15, 16 months since I won, so I’d love to get back in the winner’s circle as soon as possible.”
Playing down the seriousness of his heart issue, McIlroy added: “I went for a checkup in April, just a regular ECG, they put you on the treadmill and your heartbeat has two big spikes, and then a tiny little spike at the end, and that little spike at the end was the other way, inverted.
“It’s nothing and once they ramped my heart rate up to 150 beats per minute, that started to go the right way again, so it was totally fine.
“They just said I have a bit of a thickening in the wall, not really a big deal, just something you have to keep on top of, and that was really it.”
But while he may play it down, McIlroy’s workload over the years has surely had an effect on both his mental and physical health.
Despite not yet 30, McIlory has been on tour a decade, having turned professional in 2007. And after enjoying a 104-day break including a road trip through Italy in a 1950s convertible Mercedes with wife Erica Stoll, Wee Mac insists he’s now ready for the next 10 years.
“Honestly, I was excited to be done,” he said of cutting his season short after the Alfred Dunhill.
“I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn’t. I played six events after that and played okay. I had a chance to win one of them.
“But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of reset. After that 3 1/2 months of a reset, I’m very happy to be back.
“I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I’ve been out here for 10 years and it just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I’ve been out here for 10 years, get ready for the next 10, and I will feel like I’ve done that which is really nice.”