Rory McIlroy has admitted his patience had almost run out before securing his first win of the season in brilliant fashion in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last month.
McIlroy had been frustrated at failing to turn good performances into victories in 2016 and saw his three-shot lead after 54 holes become a one-shot deficit with three holes remaining at the K Club as Scotland’s Russell Knox carded four birdies and an eagle in a final round interrupted twice by hailstorms and torrential rain.
However, the world number three then birdied the par-five 16th as Knox three-putted and, after lipping out for birdie on the 17th, fired a stunning approach from 252 yards to within three feet of the hole on the 18th for a closing eagle.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Memorial Tournament in Ohio, McIlroy said: “I flew back after The Players (Championship) and landed in Dublin.
“I met mum and dad in the hotel on Monday night and the first thing my dad said to me is, ‘You looked miserable on the course’.
“I was like, well, I’m not miserable. I’m not happy, but it’s been a frustrating few months because I feel like my play has been better than the results have been dictating, but at the same time, it’s not all about just playing well.
“You need to play well when it matters, and that’s what I was not doing.
“I put myself in position this year to play well going into weekends or final rounds, and not being able to do it, that was the frustrating thing.
“So to finally get over the line and get that win in Ireland, there was relief in there, but at the same time I never knew how much it meant to me to win at home until I actually did.
“When it hit me and to see all the people supporting out there, it was really cool.
“I wish I would have had a win earlier than that point of the year, but it was a pretty nice way to get that first one of the year.
“I think I did need a win. As much as I was trying to just keep focused on playing well and focus on the process and it will happen sooner or later, I think all my patience was sort of dried up.
“It looked for a little part of the back nine there on Sunday that it wasn’t going to happen.
“Anyway, I pulled a couple of shots out of the bag when I needed to. Thankfully, it went my way.”
McIlroy has been paired with world number two Jordan Spieth for the first two rounds at Muirfield Village, with world number one Jason Day also competing at the home of 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus.
Spieth’s triumph in the Dean & Deluca Invitational on Sunday means the world’s top three have each won their last event, with Day winning the Players Championship for his seventh victory in his last 17 starts.
Day is also a member at Muirfield Village, but in eight starts has only made the cut four times with a best finish of joint 27th in 2009.
“Horrific,” Day said of his record. “And it’s my home course, so that makes it even worse. I think this year is more about taking more conservative lines off tees or conservative shots, maybe throttling back a little bit here or there.”
Former US Open champion Justin Rose, who lost a play-off to Sweden’s David Lingmerth last year, has been ruled out of the event with a back injury which also meant he missed last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.