Rory McIlroy on 2019 Players Victory and Mind Games

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) /

Rory McIlroy has been changing his mind.   Not like you would decide to have lobster instead of steak.  Or mac and cheese instead of Chinese food. He means changing the way he thinks about himself and his game.  Changing his approach to learning focus and concentration. Really changing his mind.

Rory McIlroy has started meditation, and he’s juggling, which apparently improves some brain functioning, depending on what research you read.

He’s reading a variety of books, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy,  both by Ryan Holiday.  And he just began the biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

He’s having coffee with a trusted friend, Brad Faxon, to discuss life and golf.  In short, he’s become a more cerebral person and golfer.

“I’m not going to go and live with the monks for a couple months in Nepal, but just to be able to get your mind in the right place and be able to focus and to center yourself,” McIlroy explained in his pre-Masters press conference as his reason for what he is now doing off the course.

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He said he meditated for 20 minutes Sunday morning of The Players but added that most days it’s 10 minutes.  Pete Dye is probably taking that as a compliment.

“My routine now consists of meditation, juggling, mind training, you know, doing all the stuff to get yourself in the right place,” he added.  “I was watching the Women’s Amateur over the weekend, and I saw a few women on the range juggling, so it’s catching on.”

That said, he likes where his game is.

“I don’t think I’ve ever started a season this well in terms of finishes, and even stats‑wise, looking at all my stats, they are right up there with some of the best years that I’ve had,” he said.

The Players victory was important to him for a variety of reasons.

“To get that validation, the win at The Players, the close calls, the good play that I’ve had over the first four months of the year, it just proves to me that what I’m doing, you know, are the right things for me,” he added. “It’s helped me play some of the best golf of my career so far this year, and you know, hopefully that will continue.”

Rory McIlroy added that what is working for him might not work at all for another golfer or another person.  He is just trying to find out what makes him better.  And, as he has said two or three times in press conferences this year, he’s learned to separate his on-course life from his off-course life.

“I am not my score. I am not my results. That’s been one of my big things,” he explained. “It’s perspective. It’s perception. I always talk about these P’s that I try to practice, and it is.

“I think I’ve had a healthy dose of perspective this year, and that’s helped, either with great results like The Players, or undesirable results of not being able to finish a tournament off.  Being able to put both of those things in perspective have been a good thing.”

When it comes to the Masters, he still wants very much to win it.

“If it doesn’t happen this week, that’s totally fine. I’ll come back next year and have another crack at it,” he concluded. “But I’m happy with where everything is, body, mind, game.”

What he loves about Augusta National is that it requires creativity.

“This is my 11th year here. If I haven’t figured it out by now, there’s something wrong,” he said talking more in the golf mode. “I’m very comfortable with this golf course. I think one of the great things about this course is it forces you to be creative, and I like that side of the game. I like to see shots. I like to visualize.”

Rory McIlroy probably wants to visualize a green jacket in his closet come Sunday evening, and according to many, he is the favorite to get the job done.

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“I know I’ve played well enough, and I’ve shot enough good scores around here over the years that, you know, if I can put my best effort forward, I’m going to have a good chance to do well here,” he said.