Players Championship 2022: Rory McIlroy confident in his game to challenge at Sawgrass.

Rory McIlroy is confident his game is in shape to challenge at this week’s Players Championship after missing the cut as defending champion last year.

The Northern Irishman, who won the PGA Tour’s flagship event in 2019, opened with a seven-over-par 79 in 2021, after the 2020 event was hit by Covid-19.

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but there would have to be a drastic change in my game for me to shoot 79,” McIlroy said.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with my game coming in this year.”

McIlroy led last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational after the opening round and was two off the lead at the halfway stage but was critical of the course set-up as he slipped out of contention with successive four-over-par 76s in rounds three and four.

He said he felt “punch drunk” after Sunday’s final round and likened the course to “crazy golf”.

“It can knock your confidence whenever the conditions are like this. I’m certainly playing better than shooting eight over over the weekend,” the 32-year-old added.

He said he used Monday’s three-hour drive north from Bay Hill to TPC Sawgrass in Florida to “recharge”.

“These Mondays between tournaments can be important to flip the switch,” he said. “I didn’t touch the clubs, just had a nice night and then you wake up Tuesday morning and feel a bit better about everything and you get after it again.”

McIlroy was joint leader with England’s Tommy Fleetwood at the halfway stage when he won the 2019 Players, eventually triumphing by one shot.

His initial defence in 2020 ended in bizarre fashion when the tournament was cancelled before the start of the second round as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

And last year, he followed his opening 79 with a three-over 75 to to miss the cut.

“I didn’t know it was 79 last year. I tried to forget about it, but thanks for reminding me,” he joked.

“I came in here last year not very confident in my golf game I didn’t feel like I was playing well. I sort of had a two-way miss going. I was missing it left, missing it right.

“It’s always important to get off to good starts in golf tournaments, and I obviously didn’t do that last year, but in 2019 I did. I got off to a great start the first two days, and that set me up to have a solid weekend and go on and win.”

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