McIlroy admits criticism fair for no show


Golf:Rory McIlroy spoke today about the need to escape from golf — as he controversially did last week even though a world championship was being played. The world number one returns to action at the Singapore Open tomorrow and by Sunday night he could have completed the same money-list double on the European and American tours achieved for the first time by Luke Donald last year.

Skipping the HSBC Champions in China did not harm his chances, but it did bring him criticism, especially as he was in the country at the start of the week for a head-to-head with Tiger Woods that was rumoured to have earned each of them a seven-figure sum. McIlroy, who instead chose to fly to Bulgaria to watch girlfriend Carolina Wozniacki play tennis, said today: “It’s a big event, it’s a tough one to miss.

“I need those weeks where I can just completely escape from this, from my life. I forget where I am, what I do, I’m completely away from it and those weeks are very helpful for me. You see some guys out there, golf is everything, their life — of course it’s my life and I’m very lucky too — but sometimes you need to step away from it.

“Spending time with Caroline helps me to do that. That’s the biggest challenge for us going forward. I can’t play every week. If I had I would have played five in a row finishing the season and after playing Turkey and Ryder Cup and all the FedEx Cup stuff it’s just too much.”

While he was off last week it was confirmed by Titleist that their association with McIlroy is ending. He is thought to be switching to Nike for a reported €250 million over 10 years, but the 23-year-old Northern Irishman was not about to discuss that when he spoke to reporters at the Sentosa club — and even cast doubt over whether it is a done deal yet.

“I’m a Titleist player until the end of the year. I’ve made no commitment to any company going for next year,” he stated. “It’s a process we’re working through and you’ll probably hear about it in the next few weeks.”

While anybody would find it hard to say no to such a fortune McIlroy is fast learning that he simply cannot agree to everything put in front of him. “Managing time is a very important part of my life. It’s something I learnt to do a little bit better last year after the US Open in 2011,” he added.

“People want you to do more things and you have to learn how to say ‘No’. You have to be selfish sometimes and look after yourself. It doesn’t make you a bad person — you can’t do everything, you can’t make everyone happy. You have got to put yourself first and foremost and try fit in the things you want to do.

“I’m in the fortunate position where I can dictate where I want to play, what I want to do, where I want to go.”

His lead at the top of the European Order of Merit is over €760,000 and nearest challengers Peter Hanson, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter are not playing this week or at next week’s Hong Kong Open, where he is the defending champion. Unless South African Louis Oosthuizen wins on Sunday to jump into second spot a third place finish could see it all done and dusted with two weeks to spare.

“For sure I’m in the lead at the minute and it would be nice to increase that. There’s still a lot to play for in the next three weeks and I want to finish off the season as strong as possible. It would be great to get another win or two.”

Oosthuizen’s opportunity to grab the money-list title may have come and gone when he crashed from five clear to only a sixth place finish last week. American star Phil Mickelson was a joint runner-up there and has also moved on to Singapore, as has Australian Adam Scott, going for a fourth victory at the event in eight years.

Scott is sixth in the world, but has not tasted victory since August last year and shockingly, of course, bogeyed the last four holes when four clear at the British Open in July. Mickelson and Scott partner Ireland’s Padraig Harrington in the opening two rounds and he is hoping his victory last month in the four-man PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda was a sign of good things to come.

“Winning is a habit,” the Dubliner said. “It was only 36 holes and there were only four players, but still you get the same feelings when you’re coming down the stretch. Those are the sorts of experiences you want to have as often as possible. It makes winning easier.

“I see good things ahead, absolutely. I hit the ball very well this year and my weakness this year has traditionally been my strength — I didn’t putt very well. The good thing about that is I believe I can bring it back. There’s a lot of optimism in my game going forward. I believe I’m coming back into another peak.”

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