Published January 13, 2015
Rory McIlroy has sponsors logos on his sleeves. He doesn't want his emotions there as well.
After what has been an erratic year of great victories and dismal defeats, he's trying his best to internalize his feelings a little bit more on the course.
In other words, fewer grimaces and grins, more focus, less frustration.
"I've become a little bit too emotionally involved with my golf over the last few months, I guess," he said Wednesday, a day before the start of play in the Bridgestone Invitational. "I've let it either get me excited or get me down, where I should really just not get too high or too low about it at all."
In the glaring light of worldwide golf acclaim, McIlroy's temperament is a focal point. It's certainly not difficult to tell from a quick glance how things are going for the 24-year-old from Holywood, Northern Ireland.
By most any measure, his last year has been very successful. He won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, and will defend next week at Oak Hill. After winning his second major, he had back-to-back victories at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championship late in 2012, giving him four wins on the year. After that, he played an integral part in Europe's stunning come-from-behind win over the United States in the Ryder Cup.
This calendar year, he hasn't won on the PGA Tour, hasn't really threatened in the three majors (a missed cut at the British Open, a tie for 41st in the U.S. Open and a tie for 25th at the Masters) and has one top-five finish in 11 starts. On the European Tour, he has only finished in the top 10 in one of his eight starts.
There have also been a couple of public meltdowns. He withdrew at the Honda Classic because of poor play. His mental state was called into question by the British tabloids after he expressed his frustration two weeks ago after two bad rounds at Muirfield.
"The last 51 weeks (since last year's PGA at Kiawah Island) it's been up and down," McIlroy said. "My highs have been incredibly high and my lows have been pretty low. It's just about trying to stabilize everything out and try to make it a little more on an even keel."
As in the past, he is being counseled by several worthy advisers, including former player and instructor Dave Stockton, to get a grip on his emotions.
"I've always said it's easier to smile when you're making birdies," McIlroy said. "The thing (Stockton) said to me last year that I'm trying to do again is if someone's watching you on the outside, don't let them know whether you've made a birdie or a bogey."
That approach carries over off the course as well, apparently.
Hall of Famer Gary Player recently wondered aloud if tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, McIlroy's girlfriend for the past couple of years, was a good fit for him. Player said it was important for McIlroy to find "the right wife."
Asked about Player's words on Wednesday, McIlroy said he had no idea what Player had said.
"I haven't heard," he said. "I don't know what you're talking about."
When told, he laughed. Then he expressed admiration for the legendary Player.
Perhaps he was already hiding his emotions.
PLAYING IN SOUTH KOREA: The 2015 Presidents Cup will be played at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea, marking the second time in a row that a course designed by the 18-time major championship winner will host the competition.
This year's Presidents Cup is set for Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
The announcement was made Wednesday by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem along with Nicklaus, who was at the Bridgestone Invitational to receive an honorary award.
Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea hosted the Songdo Championship in 2010 and 2011, and the 2012 Korea Women's Open on the Korean LPGA Tour.
The biennial Presidents Cup pits a United States team against an International side comprised of players from everywhere outside of Europe.
GRATEFUL: When 36-hole leader Hunter Mahan left the Canadian Open last week to get home for the birth of daughter Zoe, it opened the door for Brandt Snedeker to win by three strokes. He collected the $1,000,008 first prize for his sixth career victory.
Asked Wednesday if he had decided what he would get the Mahans for a baby present, Snedeker laughed and said, "I have not. But it's going to be a nice gift, I'll tell you that."
PRIMED FOR OAK HILL: Justin Rose, who won the U.S. Open at Merion in June, says it's not just the $8.75 million purse that draws the world's top players to Firestone Country Club each year.
The Bridgestone is the week before the PGA Championship, played this year at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.
Rose is one of many who believe there are a lot of similarities between Firestone and most of the traditional, old-style country clubs that host the year's final major championship.
"I feel like this course will be great preparation," he said. "It's a golf course here where you have to play really well tee to green. Sometimes straight par 4s are the hardest, where there's not a lot of shape to them — and you do have quite a few of those out here on this golf course."
STEP LADDER: Snedeker believes that a career as a pro golfer usually follows a career arc: you play, you contend, you win a tournament, you win a big-money World Golf Championship event and then you win a major championship.
Right now, Snedeker is trying to make the step to winning a WGC or maybe even skipping right ahead to taking home a major.
"It's the next step in a progression," he said. "You win tournaments and then you start winning bigger tournaments. Obviously, the WGCs, especially Bridgestone, has one of the best fields in golf. You're playing against 70 guys who are probably the top 50 in the world and 20 guys who are playing great golf.
"Winning these tournaments is kind of the next step on the rung for me and then winning a major would be a next step after that. These are where you really find out where your game stacks up against the best in the world."
WELCOME ABOARD: With his tie for 16th last week at the Canadian Open along with top 10s at both the U.S. and British Opens, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama has been invited to join the PGA Tour. He'll be a special temporary member for the remainder of the 2013 season.
With $501,907 in earnings in just three professional starts, Matsuyama has already surpassed last year's No. 150 in earnings ($474,295). He has through the Wyndham Championship to earn his tour car for next year.
He's not alone. During this season, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain and Jordan Spieth have joined the tour under the same circumstances as Matsuyama, with Spieth subsequently erasing that "temporary" tag by winning at the John Deere.
DIVOTS: The winner of the Bridgestone collects $1,575,000. There is no cut and only a 73-player field, also solid reasons why the world's top players flock to Akron each August. ... Prime pairings for the first two rounds: reigning British and U.S. Open champions Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose; seven-time Bridgestone winner Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama; Dustin Johnson and Masters winner Adam Scott; Rory McIlroy and Snedeker; and defending champ Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald. ... Thunderstorms are forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with the weather clearing for the weekend. ... Bradley won the Bridgestone a year ago when Jim Furyk, who had led all week, made a double bogey on the final hole.
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