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Friday 15 December 2017

Confident McIlroy ready to bear his teeth

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy makes his 2015 PGA Tour debut in this week's Honda Classic, an event which has brought out the best - and worst - in the world number one in recent years.

McIlroy won the tournament in 2012 to become world number one for the first time, but walked off the course during the defence of his title the following year, initially telling reporters he was in ''a bad place mentally'' and then issuing a statement citing severe toothache as the reason for withdrawing.

The 25-year-old had played his first eight holes in seven over par but later admitted that was "no excuse" for quitting as he struggled to get to grips with his new equipment following his deal with Nike.

Last year McIlroy looked on course to make amends in style when he opened with rounds of 63 and 66, only to card a closing 74 and eventually lose out in a play-off to Russell Henley.

The Champion course at PGA National is home to the feared "Bear Trap" on holes 15, 16 and 17 and although McIlroy concedes they can be "brutal", he is confident of avoiding the pitfalls of the water-laden stretch.

"Sixteen gives you a little bit of a breather because it's only a fairway wood off the tee and if you get your tee-shot away it's a relatively straightforward second shot," he said. "But 15 and 17 are brutal. To contend with not just the pressure of trying to win a golf tournament but the wind and everything else, it's a stretch of holes you just want to get through in even par and get on to the 18th tee.

"I can see myself shooting scores here. You know, I can see 63, 64, 65 out there."

McIlroy has been paired with big-hitting American duo Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka for the first two rounds, while Henley is alongside Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell.

 

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