Golf is about moving forward

DECEMBER 1 — It's a great way to start the season by winning The CJ Cup @ Summit. It’s pretty special as my 20th PGA Tour win. Over the last few months, I feel like I’ve never worked as hard and I didn't get what I wanted out of it. I guess I just needed to be a little better with what I practice and when I practice.

The whole week leading up to this win, all I did on the range was to try and visualize every shot that I hit, try to see draws, see fades, see high, see low and really just play around with it. The more and more I do that, the more it feels comfortable on the course doing that, and that to me is playing golf. That's getting back to hitting shots and, when it boils down to it, that's all you need to do out there — hit the shots. Sometimes I forgot about that in a quest to try to be too perfect, but it was a great reminder you don't need to be perfect to be a great golfer.

On the Saturday night of the Ryder Cup, I was done with golf. I didn't want to see golf again until 2022. Then I talked about that Sunday singles match where I beat Xander Schauffele and that sort of sparked a little bit of a flame again. I think I maybe figured something out, and said to myself, ‘Maybe play a few more times before the season's done.’ On the Sunday night at the Ryder Cup I thought, ‘Let’s go to CJ and try to build on this little bit of a breakthrough.’ 

All I wanted to do in the match against Xander was win the point for the team. That's all I could do and I hadn't done much else the rest of the week. I went out and won my point by doing whatever I could. I wasn't trying to be perfect, I wasn't trying to hit shots that I wasn't comfortable hitting. I just went out there to try to win my match, and I did. I think part of the emotion at the end of it was to do with that week, but it was also probably to do with the last few months in terms of searching and trying to get better and sort of the realization that I don't need to search for anything. It's all right here.  

During the broadcast interview, I said I've realised that just being me is good enough and maybe the last few months, I was maybe trying to add things to my game or take things away from my game. I know that when I do the things that I do well, this is what I'm capable of. I'm capable of winning a lot of events on the PGA Tour and being the best player in the world. It's just a matter of me getting back to playing golf and playing golf my way. That starts with being creative and being visual and maybe sort of sifting through the technical thoughts and not maybe being as technical with it.  

Golf is about moving forward, and there's always next week and you're always trying to get better. It’s a very long-winded way of saying 20 wins seemed like a long way away whenever I turned pro all those years ago. I think this is probably like my 30th worldwide if you count European Tour wins, so it's been a pretty nice career so far. 

Rory McIlroy hits from the first fairway during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament in Las Vegas October 17, 2021. — Reuters pic
Rory McIlroy hits from the first fairway during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament in Las Vegas October 17, 2021. — Reuters pic

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I remember when I turned pro in '07, I went down and played the Australian Masters at the end of that year. I got my European Tour card and in the first two days, I was paired with Aaron Baddeley and I think he was like 18th in the world then. I was like thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this guy is 18th in the world. How cool would that be?’ 

Before the start of The CJ Cup, I was the 14th player in the world and basically people were wondering if I was going to retire! It's all relative. I just think as a kid starting out, I remember those two days with Aaron Baddeley, we both played really well. He was having a great year and I, as an 18-year-old, really looked up to him and thinking hopefully one day that will be me.  

That's what I thought was an achievement at the start of my career, which was to get into the top-20 in the world. So I've surpassed all of that, but as you go on, you have to reframe your goals and everything and you have to keep resetting. As I've gone along in my career, I've had to do that because you just keep going. You can't stagnate and stay the same, you have to try to keep getting better and keep doing more things. I think that's what this is.  

Winning in Vegas is obviously a great way to start the 2021-22 season in the U.S but I sort of go on the calendar year in terms of wins, so it was nice to get a second one this year after winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May. I think to get a win most years that you play, I still want to get back to that point where I'm knocking off three, four or five wins a year. To have multiple wins this year on a year that I would say has been a bit of a down year for me, it's still been pretty good.  

* Rory McIlroy is a 20-time PGA Tour winner and you can watch him and golf’s biggest stars on Astro Golf Channel and GOLFTV powered by PGA Tour.

** This is the  personal opinion of the columnist.

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