Off-form McIlroy confident of title defence

WORLD No3 Rory McIlroy remains confident that he can put a terrible start to the year behind him and mount a strong defence of his US PGA Championship title at Oak Hill when he tees off tomorrow.

McIlroy has entered 15 events in 2013 and failed to make the cut on four occasions.

He is without a win all year and also withdrew from the Honda Classic midway through his second round while on seven over par for the day.

More worryingly the former US Open champion’s form has become progressively worse at the Majors this year, as he finished joint 25th in the Masters, then tied for 41st in the US Open before not making the cut altogether in The Open last month.

However, McIlroy maintains the belief that a return to his best form is just around the corner.

“I definitely had a better week last year, coming out of Firestone with a lot of confidence going into the PGA, feeling good about my game,” said the 24-year-old, fifth in 2012 before going on to win his second Major at Kiawah Island.

“I have put in a lot of work for the past couple of weeks and I definitely feel things are going in the right direction.

“Once I get my long game back on track, I feel like my short game is exactly where it needs to be. If I can start hitting some fairways, hopefully I can challenge for some tournaments.”

The Northern Irishman showed glimpses of his best at last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational, but again struggled with his accuracy off the tee as he finished 17 shots behind runaway winner Tiger Woods after carding a final round of 72 to finish 27th overall.

“I thought I struck the ball much better in the final round than I did the previous three days, which was great, which was a good sign,” added McIlroy. “Obviously I didn’t score very well the first day, then I didn't hit it particularly well in the middle two rounds, but actually my short game was good and was able to keep myself around par.”

McIlroy tees off at 6.25pm BST tomorrow, alongside two-time winner Vijay Singh of Fiji and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, champion in 2010.

Tournament favourite Tiger Woods plays with former champions Davis Love III and Keegan Bradley.

RORY’S ROCKY YEAR

Majors
■ Masters (25th)
■ US Open (tied-41st)
■ The Open (missed cut)

PGA Tour
■ Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (missed cut)
■ WGC Match Play Championship (tied-33rd)
■ Honda Classic (withdrew)
■ WGC Cadillac Championship (tied-eighth)
■ Shell Houston Open (tied-45th)
■ Valero Texas Open (second)
■ Wells Fargo Championship (tied-10th)
■ The Players Championship (tied-eighth)
■ BMW PGA Championship (missed cut)
■ The Memorial Tournament (tied-57th)
■ Irish Open (missed cut)
■ WGC Bridgestone Invitational (tied-27th)