Rory McIlroy believes that tying the knot can give his golf game a lift as he prepares for an assault on the US$10.5 million Players Championship in Florida this week. AFP pix

MIAMI: Rory McIlroy believes that tying the knot can give his golf game a lift as he prepares for an assault on the US$10.5 million Players Championship in Florida this week.

World number two McIlroy, who split from tennis star Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 after sending out wedding invites, married girlfriend Erica Stoll last month at a ceremony in Ireland.

The 28-year-old Northern Ireland ace told reporters in Florida on Tuesday the wedding was “the best weekend of my life.”

McIlroy, who also confirmed a new long-term clubs and ball deal with United States giant TaylorMade, said he hoped the calm in his private life would boost his game.

“It seems like everything’s very settled. There’s not really many question marks going on in my life right now,” McIlroy said.

“I feel like everything’s exactly where it’s meant to be, and if you feel like that off the golf course, then I can only imagine that it will help you on it.”

Yet McIlroy said there was no chance of marriage dimming his competitive spirit.

“My mentality on the golf course I feel will just be the same,” he said.

“It might help me get over tough losses a little bit easier.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to tell you when the time comes, but I’m in a great place in my life and I feel very settled and very lucky to be in this position. Now it’s just about trying to make the most of, I guess, the fortune that I’ve had.”

The 28-year-old four-time major champion has never won at TPC Sawgrass, where the winner will take home a cheque of US$1.89 million, making it one of the most lucrative events on the USPGA Tour.

McIlroy said the challenging par-72 layout invariably caused him to curb his natural aggressive instincts.

“This is a golf course where I’ve had to rein in my game over the years,” McIlroy said. “I missed my first three cuts here, and then since that I’ve had four pretty good finishes. I think my worst has been 12th in the last four years.

“I’ve definitely limited the amount of drivers I’ve hit. I’ve always felt that driving is a big advantage for me if I can drive the ball well – but it just doesn’t let me do that here.”

Defending champion Jason Day meanwhile is hoping that a return to the course where he claimed his last PGA event a year ago can help him end an alarming title drought.

The 29-year-old Australian said he was close to burnout last year as the pressure of defending his world number one ranking took hold.

“I could sense that being No. 1 and all that stuff was getting pretty hard mentally more so than physically ... the expectations, and it’s very, very easy to get burnt out in a sense,” Day said.

“So I would love to win every week. But unfortunately, it’s very, very difficult to do.”

Day believes his game over the closing holes will decide his quest to become the first back-to-back Players champion in the history of the event.

“I think what won me the tournament last year was I played the back nine probably better than most, probably best out of everyone in the field last year,” he said. “I think that’s what holds the key to winning around this golf course is playing the back nine best.” -- AFP

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