The world’s top-ranked player is back in America, and he thinks golf is in good hands with the current crop of youngsters.
Rory McIlroy held about a 15-minute press conference after playing in a pro-am at PGA National on Wednesday at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as he prepares for his first PGA Tour event of 2015 with the Honda Classic Thursday.
McIlroy touched on his game, his time off, his mindset for this season and the prospect of him being the face of golf during his press conference.
The 25-year-old has played in two European Tour events in 2015, one being a win in Dubai nearly four weeks ago and the other a runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi. During McIlroy’s absence from the PGA Tour the last couple of months, golfers such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who have carried the game the past decade, have struggled and showed their age.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure to be the face of the game,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I think the game is in great hands, not just with people like myself, but with some of the young stars that are starting to come through and play well."
Then he offered an impressive list of young talent to make his case.
"Even though there’s a few guys who have been at the top for a number of years who are struggling a little bit, I feel like the next generation coming through can definitely keep golf where it is, and it is in very good hands with the likes of Jordan [Spieth] and Rickie [Fowler] and myself, and Hideki [Matsuyama], and Brooks [Koepka] won a couple of weeks ago in Phoenix, and a lot of young guys coming through and playing well -- Jason Day, obviously, at Torrey Pines," McIlroy said. "So golf is in good hands. I don’t feel like there is any extra pressure on me or anyone else to carry the game forward. I think it’s going to be just fine.”
McIlroy ended last season tying for second at the Tour Championship, and at one point he won three straight starts -- including two majors -- from July to August.
After the Honda, McIlroy will play next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral before entering his first Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which will be his final tune-up before the Masters on April 9-12.
McIlroy said he hopes to gain confidence in these next three starts before heading into Augusta, where he’ll aim for this third straight major victory and the career grand slam.
“I feel like I got a nice schedule going into Augusta,” McIlroy said. “I’m not playing too much, but I’m playing just enough where I should be as sharp as possible going in there.”
McIlroy tees off at 12:45 p.m. (Eastern Time) Thursday with Koepka and Dustin Johnson.