Rory McIlroy takes clubhouse lead and reveals key to stunning form
World No 1 admits professional and personal heartache has helped him focus on golf
Rory McIlroy celebrates an eagle on the 18th green during the second round of the US PGA Championship at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy revealed how the biggest professional and personal heartaches of his life were behind his sensational form after claiming the clubhouse lead in pursuit of a second Major title in four weeks in the 96th US PGA Championship.
McIlroy briefly dropped three shots off the pace when he bogeyed the par-four 12th, his third hole of the day, but bounced back to card a second round of 67 at Valhalla.
It was the 25-year-old’s 12th successive sub-par score and a nine-under-par halfway total of 133 means he is a combined 41 under par for his last 10 rounds, including being 17 under in winning the Open at Royal Liverpool and 15 under to win a first World Golf Championship event in the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.
The world number one also won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, just days after splitting from tennis star fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, even though the wedding invitations had already been sent out.
McIlroy has spoken before of making golf his number one priority since then, but also pointed to his collapse to a closing 80 in the 2011 Masters as the reason behind his subsequent success.
“I think I’ve had to learn to be a good frontrunner,” said McIlroy, who won his first two Majors by eight shots and led from start to finish at Royal Liverpool last month. “I maybe wasn’t quite comfortable in that position at the start of my career, especially 2011 in the Masters. I was four ahead and I wasn’t quite comfortable in that position.
“It’s taken me a couple of years to grow into that and my mindset has stayed the same since that day at Augusta. If I’m two ahead going into the weekend here, I’m going to try to get three ahead, and if I’m three ahead, I’m going to try to get four ahead.
“I’m just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. I went into protection mode once in my career and that did not work out very well so I said would never do it again.”
Speaking about the change in his personal circumstances, McIlroy added: “I think it has happened to me for the better. I’ve put a little bit more time into my golf and refocused in a way. It’s the only thing I have, I’ve got my family and my friends, but I just immersed myself in my game. I’ve practiced hard and I’ve done all the right things and I’m reaping the rewards.
“Golf is the number one priority to me and while I’m on this run of form I want to try and keep it going as long as possible. I’m going to keep working hard and try and get even better. Hopefully I can do that over the next few years and hopefully you’ll see golf like this more often from me.”