Newly-wed Rory McIlroy set for 'new chapter'

Rory McIlroy admiring a bobblehead doll version made in his likeness. The Northern Irishman hopes new gear will aid him in his first tournament since his layoff.
Rory McIlroy admiring a bobblehead doll version made in his likeness. The Northern Irishman hopes new gear will aid him in his first tournament since his layoff.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI - After a five-week layoff that saw him wed American Erica Stoll in an Irish castle, soak up the sun on a Caribbean honeymoon and strike a new multi-million dollar equipment deal, Rory McIlroy is keen to start a new chapter in his life at the US$10.5 million Players Championship in Florida this week.

"The last few weeks have been really cool. Obviously got married and went on honeymoon and enjoyed that," the Northern Irish golfer told reporters at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday (May 9).

"Got back home to Florida last Thursday, been trying to lose a bit of weight before this week... but, yeah, everything's been great."

The 28-year-old signed a reported US$100 million (S$141 million) deal to switch to TaylorMade for the next 10 years. He had an equipment contract with Nike before it announced late last year it was pulling out of that market.

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The world No. 2, who signed a long-term US$200 million extension to his Nike apparel contract in April, said he decided to switch to TaylorMade's clubs and balls this week after feeling a lack of control with his shots in windy conditions.

"So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta, worked with a lot of different things," he said. "Saw stuff... that they have, and I thought, wow, this is what I need, this is exactly the thing that I've been struggling with."

McIlroy said he felt like he was starting "a new chapter" in his life, adding he hopes the new gear will take him to "the next level".

The four-time Major winner did not think his intensity and focus on the golf course would change now that he is a married man, but thought marriage could be beneficial off the course.

"It might help me get over tough losses a little bit easier," he said. "I'm in a great place in my life and I feel very settled and very lucky to be in this position. Now it's just about trying to make the most of, I guess, the fortune that I've had."

McIlroy has never won at TPC Sawgrass, where the winner will take home a cheque of US$1.89 million, making it one of the most lucrative events on the US PGA Tour.

He said the challenging par-72 layout invariably caused him to curb his natural aggressive instincts.

"This is a golf course where I've had to rein in my game over the years," he said. "I missed my first three cuts here, and since then I've had four pretty good finishes. I think my worst has been 12th in the last four years.

"I've definitely limited the amount of drivers I've hit. I've always felt that driving is a big advantage for me if I can drive the ball well - but it just doesn't let me do that here."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Newly-wed Rory set for 'new chapter''. Print Edition | Subscribe