Rory McIlroy seems to have this whole golf/life thing in perspective. The reigning U.S. Open champ who’ll tee it up this week with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and 2011 PGA champ Keegan Bradley, among other luminaries, at Quail Hollow Club, said Wednesday that what he does outside the ropes was just as important as his day job.
“For me there's more to life than just golf,” McIlroy told reporters ahead of Thursday’s start to the Wells Fargo Championship. “I don't know if people are surprised to hear that, but I have a lot more going on in my life than just golf.”
To prove he meant what he said, McIlroy stated he would trim the number of worldwide events he planned to start this year. A slightly abbreviated schedule will help him in the long run, he said.
“I don't want to be burned out by the time I'm 30,” said the 22-year-old. “I want to try and prolong my career as much as I can.”
To that end, McIlroy will play 23 worldwide events, plus the Ryder Cup. The 30 tourneys he played last year tuckered him out, especially toward the end of the season, so he’ll follow the lead of Tiger Woods and gear up for the four major championships.
“The most important time for me in the golf season is from the start of April until the end of August. That's when all the big tournaments are and that's when you want to play your best golf,” McIlroy said. “All the stuff either side of that is more preparation work and making sure that your game is getting ready and your body is physically ready for that time of the year.”
For the pundits who castigate him for taking too much time off between starts? McIlroy suggested that it was their problem.
“I know I've been criticized a little bit for not playing as much as some other guys leading into these few weeks,” he said. “But I know I've got a big stretch coming up, and I want to be as fresh as possible for this.”
For sure, while he’s on the course, McIlroy is all business. After seven days of “some really good practice” with coaches Michael Bannon and Steve McGregor, the young lad from Northern Ireland said he was ready to pick up the sticks and return to competition.
“All I want to do is just play golf and win golf tournaments and the rest [the yo-yo’ing between McIlroy and Luke Donald for golf’s No. 1 ranking] takes care of itself,” he said. “The most important thing for me is the golf and making sure that I'm comfortable on the golf course and have enough time to put into my game so that I'm ready every time I play.”
Part of what keeps McIlroy fresh is a healthy mix of what he does for a living and just living. The latter involves making time for his globe-trotting girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, whom he visited with during a two-week break from golf after a stunningly poor performance (T40) at The Masters.
“I'm trying to find the perfect balance between golf and having a normal life and everything else,” McIlroy said.