Healthy Rory McIlroy hopeful increased preparation in 2018 will lead to wins

Rory McIlroy believes his first win in more than a year is “not far away.”

That was the message the star emphasized in a press conference leading up to this week’s return to tournament play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m excited to be back at a golf tournament, it’s been a while,” he said at his pre-tournament press conference, as reported by SkySports. “The last few months have been really nice just to concentrate on a few things I needed to take care of in terms of getting myself fit and healthy to come back and sharpen up a few things in my game.”

Despite declaring a desire to win right away, McIlroy acknowledged that a return to top form may take more than just one week of competition.

“I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I’m at,” he said. “I’m obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I’ll walk away with from the two events and I’ll have things to work on and maybe think about going into that stretch in the States.”

Ultimately, though, McIlroy knows where he wants to end up: back in the winner’s circle.

“I’d love to win again, and I don’t think there’s any better feeling than winning a golf tournament. But I don’t feel like it’s that far away. I’ve practiced and I’ve played and I’ve shot some really good scores over the past few weeks, but obviously it’s different doing that to being out here on Thursday and really having a card in your hand.

“But from everything that I’ve seen in practice and playing over the past few weeks, there’s no reason to think that it’s not that far away.

After a rib injury and heart condition slowed him down in 2017, McIlroy is slated to play eight events preceeding this year’s Masters — a heavy load for the Northern Irishman.

“It would be ideal if I were to win one of these next eight events or whatever, hopefully not just one. It would be great for my confidence going into Augusta,” he said.

McIlroy believes his health will allow him to maintain a more rigorous practice regimen this year. He also plans to ramp up his preparation for events by arriving earlier in the week.

“Looking back on it, I’m going to try to get to golf tournaments a little bit earlier again, try to get in on Monday, and it just gives you an extra day to prepare on the course, get used to green speeds, rough lengths, firmness of everything, all that different stuff, because each week obviously the golf course changes quite a bit.”

The golf world will be watching to see what form the four-time major winner shows when he tees it up Thursday for the first time since October. He’ll tee it up off alongside Dustin Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood at 7:40 a.m. Thursday local time (or 10:40 p.m. ET Wednesday in the U.S.).