Sports

Break-up helps McIlroy to refocus on golf

Having immersed himself in golf since the break-up three months ago of his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, Rory McIlroy has reaped rich rewards with a sizzling run of form at the game's highest level.

Just days after saying he was not ready for marriage, the Northern Irishman clinched the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth in May, then won last month's British Open and the US PGA Tour's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in successive starts.

Brimming with confidence heading into this week's US PGA Championship where he was labelled as an overwhelming favourite, McIlroy has lived up to that billing by storming into a one-stroke lead after the second round at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, yesterday morning (Singapore time).

"I've put a little bit more time into my golf and refocused me in a way," said the world No. 1 after firing a four-under 67 to lead by one from Australian Jason Day, who fired the day's best round of 65 and veteran American Jim Furyk (68).

"I just immersed myself in my game. I've practised hard and I've done all the right things, and I'm reaping the rewards."

Asked how much more time he had been putting into golf, the three-time Major winner replied: "It's hard to really say. I guess, what else do I have to do? I get up in the morning, I go to the golf course, I go to the gym.

"It's just my life at the minute, you know. It obviously works pretty well, so I'm going to keep doing it. I always feel like I've practised pretty hard... over the past couple of months, I've really just buried myself in my golf game."

Asked what winning a fourth career Major title, and a second in succession, would mean to him, McIlroy replied: "It would be big. I don't know what else to say.

"There's a lot of golf left to play, as you said, and I'm going to try my best to just keep what I've got and keep doing that."

Meanwhile, the wait goes on for Tiger Woods to win a 15th Major as he battled through back pain to fire a three-over 74 yesterday morning, missing the cut and leaving his future competitive plans uncertain.

SORENESS

The American refused to listen to his injury-wracked body as the soreness he thought behind him returned on the practice range.

"It was sore. It went out on me on the range. Just had to play through it," Woods said. "It was telling me on the range probably wasn't a good idea, but I'm not exactly a non-stubborn person."

The former world No. 1, who has not won a Major since taking the 2008 US Open while playing on a broken leg, managed to birdie two of the last four holes but finished on six-over 148, five strokes beyond the cut line in a share of 117th place.

Woods was unsure when he might play again.

While a candidate for the Ryder Cup if healthy, there seemed no assurance Woods might be so in time for US captain Tom Watson to make him a captain's selection on Sept 2.

Having also failed to qualify for the season-ending US PGA Tour play-offs, Woods faced a long lay-off and said that muscle work is a must during the break.

"I need to get stronger," Woods said. "I need to get my glutes strong again, my abs and my core back to where I used to have them. They are just not quite there yet.

"Obviously by playing, you can't burn the candle at both ends. I need to get stronger physically and be back to where I was. I need to get back in that gym and get stronger."

- Wire Services.