London - Rory McIlroy returns to the day job on Thursday admitting he has learned some hard lessons during his worst year since turning professional.
Predictably tight-lipped about the state of his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, the 24-year-old Ulsterman was more candid regarding a winless season to date that has seen him muster just one top-three finish and only three other top 10s.
‘This has been the first year where I’ve struggled as a pro and not lived up to my own expectations, but the important thing is I have learned a lot and that will help me going forward,’ said McIlroy. ‘Now it’s time to concentrate on my final six tournaments of the year. It’s important I finish strongly and get momentum for 2014.’
The first of these six events is the Korea Open, which begins tomorrow some 50 miles from the capital, Seoul. The big question for McIlroy (right), following the media maelstrom that followed yet more speculation regarding his private life and revelations in a Dublin courtroom as he began legal action against his former management company, is whether he can focus properly.
If he can do that, there’s every hope he can start the sequence that will take him around the world in 50 days on a positive note.
McIlroy has played in this event on this course twice before, finishing third in 2009 and runner-up in 2011.
‘I remember the course well and I’m looking forward to getting back to playing competitively again after a month off,’ he said. ‘I’ve enjoyed myself here and it helps to come back to a course where you have good memories.’
As for his relationship with Wozniacki - if there still is one - it seems safe to assume that the days of posting revelatory pictures of one another on Twitter, thereby putting their relationship in the public domain and drawing the gossip crowd, are a thing of the past. Hinting that might be one of the lessons he’s learned this year, McIlroy said: ‘My private life is private, and I’d like to keep it that way.’
Among other things he’s learned is to try to get his schedule right heading into the Masters. He added: ‘I was under-golfed for the first three to four months, and then I developed a couple of bad habits as I tried to make up for lost time.
‘We all know this is a game of confidence and so because I had a couple of mechanical issues with my swing, it became a mental issue as well. But that’s behind me. My goal is to turn my season around.’
McIlroy has been lured to play in Korea by an appearance fee said to be six times greater than the £150 000 first prize. He is comfortably the biggest name competing, with the quality of field affected by the fact many Koreans are playing in the Japan Open and the leading Australians on the OneAsia Tour are in the Perth International on the European Tour.
Nevertheless, the trophy lists impressive previous winners, including John Daly, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Thongchai Jaidee.