Now is the winter of McIlroy's content
The marketing men – those belonging to the European Tour, or those involved with Nike – couldn’t have planned it better. Neither could the man himself. Rory McIlroy, the hottest thing in the game, heads into the winter recess with the world at his feet; and, if the imminent $250 million (€193m) deal with Nike is occupying quite a few minds around boardrooms, it would seem the golfer himself is more focused on where he takes his next step in pursuit of greatness.
McIlroy has given masterclass after masterclass since mid-August when he captured the US PGA at Kiawah Island. That record-breaking Wanamaker Trophy win was the catalyst for a late-season dominance – on both sides of the Atlantic – that has seen him add the Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championships on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour to his ever-impressive CV in establishing a lead in the world rankings unknown since Tiger Woods’s halcyon era.
Quality over quantity
For sure, the comparisons of McIlroy, still only 23, with Woods are justified. And in more ways than one. Apart from his ability to close out tournaments, McIlroy would appear to be taking a leaf out of Woods’s book in determining where and when he plays. As such, his decision to further reduce his playing schedule next year bares a familiarity to Woods’s scheduling to opt for quality over quantity.
McIlroy played as a Titleist tour player for the last time in Dubai and will reappear in the new year as a Nike tour player, with his first scheduled appearance coming back in the desert when he tees up at the Abu Dhabi championship on January 17th-20th.
After that, the Ulsterman will put the main focus of his early season on playing in the States in the run-up to the Masters with his schedule set to take in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay, his defence of the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac championship. His plan is then to take two weeks off, return for the Houston Open, and then leave time before the Masters free from tournament play.
It means McIlroy will have played just five times – including the two WGCs – before returning to Augusta in April in search of a third career Major.
And despite his name being the biggest draw in the sport, McIlroy is determined there will be no swaying him to change his mind. “I’ve done my schedule. I’m sticking to it. I’m not letting anyone persuade me to go anywhere else. I’ve learned my lessons over the last couple of years and I’m going to stick to what I’ve planned to do.”
All of McIlroy’s scheduling is with one eye on the Majors, the barometer by which great players are judged. McIlroy – with two – is still some way behind the 14 career Majors achieved by Woods and the record 18 accumulated by Jack Nicklaus and his goals heading into a new season after a winter spent working with his new clubs will be very much the same as this year.