World number one Rory McIlroy admits he does not love golf as much as he used to when he played with “just pure joy” as a child.
The 25-year-old, looking to complete a career grand slam at the Masters next week says that the feeling of looking forward to time away from the course is something he never experienced as a kid.
“I would be dishonest if I said my love of golf now is as big as it was back then,” he said.
“I still love the game, still love playing great courses and playing with my friends and my dad. I took a trip to Augusta after Doral with dad and it was just so good. But then I don’t love golf as much as when it was just pure joy to get on to the course to play.
“When I was a kid, if I spent a day away from the game, I couldn’t wait to get back. Now I can’t wait for a week off. There’s just not the, ‘I can’t wait to get out of the house as quick as I can to get to the course’ feeling.
“Listen, this is not a job - let’s face it, I’ve never done a day’s work in my life. But it’s an intense environment I play in and it’s just nice to get away from it for a while. When I was a kid, I never, ever wanted to get away from it.”
McIlroy will head to Augusta seeking a first green jacket, having come so close in 2011 only to crash from four shots in front overnight to 10 shots behind and joint 15th place with a nightmare final-round 80.
He responded superbly, however, to win his first major at the US Open two months later, and approaches the 2015 tournament with a different mindset to keep things tight.
“I have to play the par fives more efficiently,” he said. “I can reach all the par fives in two without even hitting driver. Yet, maybe I have to curb my natural enthusiasm to go for pins and go for fours, not threes. For example, on the second, when they put the pin on the left, then maybe just play down to the bottom right and have an easy chip up the green. It’s still a shot gained.
“And focus is everything there. One slip in concentration and you make that double bogey that really drops you down the field. If there’s any course in the world where you need 100 per cent concentration for the full four days, it’s Augusta.”
Tiger Woods confirmed on Thursday that he will compete at Augusta, his participation having been in doubt with poor form and injuries in recent years having seen the American slump to 104 in the world rankings.
Despite his four major wins and rise to the top of the world rankings, McIlroy does not believe he will ever match the profile of 14-time major winner Woods.
“People tell me I am the new face of golf, but that is a hard one for me to fathom because, growing up, I never even thought about being that,” the Northern Irishman said.
“Tiger Woods is the face of the game to the wider public and I don’t think I’ll ever be that, just because of who I am, who he is, what he represents and the people he brought to the sport. I’m never going to do that - it’s not something that’s going to be possible.”