Rory McIlroy is raring to go in Abu Dhabi after rediscovering his pleasure in playing golf after his Ryder Cup woes… while defending champion Tyrrell Hatton admits he’s struggling for motivation as the season begins
- Rory McIlroy and the defending champion Tyrrell Hatton are paired in Abu Dhabi
- McIlroy has rediscovered his pleasure in playing golf again and cannot wait
- Whereas Hatton, by stark contrast, said he was struggling to get motivated
Rory McIlroy and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton share a tee-time at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday morning, but that is about it.
From out of the tear stains at the Ryder Cup, McIlroy has rediscovered pleasure in playing golf again and cannot wait for the season to begin. Hatton, by stark contrast, said he was struggling to get motivated and sounded like a man having a professional mid-life crisis at the ripe old age of 30.
There have been times in seasons past where McIlroy has barely touched the clubs during his two-month winter break. Not this time.
Rory McIlroy (above) and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton will share a tee-time at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday morning
He took two weeks off and then went to the practice ground daily to build on the momentum achieved from the wreckage of Whistling Straits, when he played three events, winning once and losing a sickener to Collin Morikawa in Dubai.
‘That’s the one thing I improved upon last year, I did a better job of finding the joy of playing golf again, particularly after the Ryder Cup,’ he said.
‘I’m a reflective person and it’s important for me to remember that what I’m doing is what I always dreamed about as a kid. So I stayed busy during the off-season and I’ve been playing well in practice. I’m itching to get going again.’
McIlroy rediscovered his pleasure in playing golf again and cannot wait for the season to begin
Hatton (above), by stark contrast, said he was struggling to get motivated and sounded like a man having a professional mid-life crisis at the age of 30
McIlroy is aiming to take a leaf out of the Tiger Woods playbook, swapping the brawn for a more measured approach.
‘I used to sit down on the flight here and write down my goals, like how many tournaments I wanted to win, and a major, and of course they’re still all things I’d dearly love to achieve,’ he said. ‘But there are also variables you can’t control, so my goals have changed.
‘Fairways hit is a big one for me because with my length it creates so many opportunities. I need to throttle back on occasion and if necessary hit three woods and play with more control. The best player of the last 30 years did that and it worked out pretty well.’
McIlroy is aiming to take a leaf out of the Tiger Woods (above) playbook, swapping the brawn for a more measured approach
McIlroy has been close to winning this event on countless occasions. Last year, Hatton beat him by four shots to complete his meteoric rise into the world’s top five.
‘It was my fourth win in 20-odd months and I was in a great place mentally,’ said the Englishman, now down to 22nd.
‘The back half of last year, I struggled to get motivated and I’m still struggling, if I’m honest. It isn’t all plain sailing.’
When it comes to rediscovering smoother waters, he could do worse than consult his playing partner.