Rory McIlroy (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Rory McIlroy looking to build platform at Players ahead of 10th grand slam bid

Rory McIlroy accepts he both “needs and wants” a strong performance in the Players Championship as he targets an end to his major victory drought.

McIlroy began the year with second place in the Dubai Invitational and victory in the Dubai Desert Classic seven days later, but has finished no better than 21st in each of his four events on the PGA Tour.

The world number two will seek a second victory at Sawgrass this week and also contest the Valero Texas Open immediately before the Masters at Augusta National, where a first major win since 2014 would make McIlroy just the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

Asked if his recent form meant he needed or wanted a good week at PGA Tour headquarters, McIlroy told reporters: “Both probably.

“They’ve been middle of the road [finishes], 20th places or whatever it is. I’m not missing cuts but, at the same time, with how I’ve driven the golf ball the last three weeks I should be contending in the tournaments that I’ve played.

“I have this amazing feeling with my woods at the minute, but when I try to recreate that feeling with the irons, it starts left and goes further left.

“I have a swing thought for my woods and I need a different swing thought for my irons, and that’s what I’ve been working on over the last couple days. I feel like every other part of the game is in great shape.”

McIlroy has recorded 19 top-10s in major championships since winning the 2014 US PGA at Valhalla, which will host the event again from May 16-19.

However, the 34-year-old’s dismay at his failure to add to his four major titles was recently captured in the second season of Netflix documentary Full Swing as he reacted to Brooks Koepka’s fifth major win in the 2023 US PGA.

“I feel good enough to f****** top-10 in my head, but not good enough to win,” McIlroy vented in the locker room at Oak Hill.

Brooks Koepka

Speaking on Wednesday, McIlroy said: “Look, I’m under no illusion that the clock is ticking and it has been 10 years since I’ve won one of them, and I’ve had chances, and those just haven’t went my way.

“I just need to keep putting myself in those positions, and sooner or later it’s going to happen.”

McIlroy believes his spell on the PGA Tour’s policy board took a toll on his time, rather than his golf, but despite no longer being in that position, he was still inundated with questions about the current state of men’s professional golf.

After expressing his support for under-fire PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, McIlroy conceded that the top stars may have held the Tour “to ransom” when he and Tiger Woods led a players-only meeting in Delaware in 2022 which led to the creation of the controversial “Signature Events”.

The eight, limited-field events each have a prize fund of 20million USD (£15.6m), but have come in for severe criticism.

Despite being eligible for them, former US Open champion Lucas Glover told Golfweek they were “selfish and it’s a money grab”.

McIlroy said he understood the concern over a loss of playing opportunities for players, but added: “The Tour has been a certain way for so long, but I also think that the Tour hasn’t necessarily evolved with the changing times to make it a more compelling entertainment product and fit in with the modern media and sports landscape.

“I think back to that meeting in Delaware, and I think, OK, did we push too hard, did we hold the Tour to ransom too much, the top players?

“I think the Signature Events really worked last year and, for whatever reason, they’re not quite capturing the imagination this year.

“I think it’s because fans are fatigued of what’s going on in the game, and I think we need to try to re-engage the fan and re-engage them in a way that the focus is on the play and not on talking about equity and all the rest of it.”