Mixed in between Jason Day’s press conference praise of Rory McIlroy on Wednesday was a shot at the Irishman’s desire, which Day suggested was all that separated McIlroy from Tiger Woods.
“He is just explosive,” Jason Day said of McIlroy. “Not only explosive off the tee and with his iron shots, but he can make a lot of birdies quickly. He’s a guy that’s not afraid of going low and lapping the field. We have seen that at the PGA and the U.S. Open. I was on the back end of the U.S. Open, I finished second there and I lost by eight.
“He’s not afraid, which is how champions think. I think the biggest thing for Rory is the desire part, how much do you really want it, because he has the tools to be kind of Tigeresque.”
It was that last sound bite — “how much do you really want it” — that was repeated to McIlroy at his own presser. The four-time major winner, who didn’t seem put off by the question, insisted that he is motivated and rejuvenated heading into this year.
“I was just sort of ready to call it quits for the year after the Dunhill,” he said. The Dunhill last October was McIlroy’s final appearance of 2017. “But with how I was sort of dejected and wanting to get away from it I was then, to how rejuvenated and optimistic I am now, it feels a lot different that way.
“I certainly want it. There’s no doubt about that,” he continued. “I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game when I decide to call it a day. So, the desire is definitely there. Look, like everyone sitting up here in front of you guys that plays the PGA Tour has a very comfortable life, so that’s not an excuse in any way. That’s not the reason that I’m out here to play, I’ve got everything I need. It’s just about gathering trophies and trying to be the best golfer that I can be.”
McIlroy and father Gerry are paired with Phil Mickelson and his partner, investment banker Jimmy Dunne III, at Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Pebble Beach through Saturday. The event is McIlroy’s PGA Tour season debut.