McIlroy eyes victory in WGC-FedEx St. Jude after Olympics boost

Northern Irishman says form is on the up going into this week’s World Golf Championship event in Memphis

Rory McIlroy may have just missed out on a medal but he took plenty of positives from his experience in Japan.

The 32-year-old had expressed reservations before Tokyo 2020 that maybe the Olympics wouldn't quite float his boat.

But by the end of it, he was converted. "Coming here, experiencing it, seeing, feeling everything that's going on, not just Olympic golf but the Olympics in general, that sort of Olympic spirit has definitely bitten me," he said.

"And I'm excited about how this week has turned out and excited for the future."

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In the end, McIlroy lost a seven-way play-off for bronze but he'd played the final three rounds in 13-under and liked the way his game was trending.

On the stats he finished 11th in Strokes Gained Off The Tee and on Approach while ranking 4th for SG: Putting.

And his tied third place represented a big improvement on a poor return to home shores when he'd followed T7 in the US Open with T59 in the Irish Open, missed cut in the Scottish Open and T46 at the Open Championship.

Now we'll be hoping to build on that with victory in this week's showdown in Memphis.

McIlroy has played TPC Southwind four times previously and had finishes of 29-7-4-47.

The seventh came back in 2012 when he fired rounds of 68-65-72-69.

He recorded the fourth place two years ago and shot a scintillating third-round 62.

On his second visit, McIlroy held the 36-hole lead; on his third he held the 54-hole lead.

Now, Rory will look to get his nose in front when it matters most: after 72 holes.

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The other big factor for the four-time major winner this week is dealing with the huge time difference.

McIlroy has played plenty of golf in Asia and, encouragingly, won the 2012 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai a week after contesting the Hong Kong Open.

He also landed the Irish Open a week after playing in the Players Championship in Florida.

But this is the ultimate test of his body clock.

The time difference between Japan and Memphis is 14 hours. While he proved in 2012 he could win when going east to west, the time gap between Hong Kong and Dubai is just four hours so this is a much harder examination.

Plenty of others are in the same boat (19 Olympians are in the 66-man St. Jude field) but it's an extra dynamic that Rory backers must consider.

Here's what Rory said about this week's course and the current state of his game when called in for interview on Wednesday.

On TPC Southwind

"Yeah, good to be back. You know, Memphis has now become obviously a permanent stop on the schedule with it being a WGC and then turning into the first leg of the Playoffs next year and it's great.

"This course here in Memphis, it's a wonderful golf course. I think it always produces great winners, great champions. You have to play some really good golf here to contend and win.

"It's been a whirlwind few weeks with being over in Europe and then Tokyo last week and sort of here, there and everywhere. It was nice to get a couple nights in my own bed before flying up here last night.

"Got to look at nine holes of the golf course this morning and do a little practice after this and go out and play tomorrow."

On worldwide travel and jet-lag

"I feel like I'm sort of used to it. Obviously the last year and a half we haven't traveled that much because of COVID and international events and whatever, but it's fine.

"The only thing is just trying to get over the jet-lag and going across the dateline and coming back again, that's probably the most difficult thing.

"In terms of distance traveled, I mean, whether you spend five hours on a plane or 14 or whatever, it's all the same at the end of the day. As long as you get enough rest, which I try to do and I'll try to get a good night's sleep tonight and be ready to go for the first round tomorrow."

On enjoying the Olympic experience

"Last week was certainly unexpected, I would say. I certainly didn't expect to feel the way I did when I was there, but it was great. It was a great experience. I had a wonderful time.

"I had a good chance of getting a medal there at the end and didn't quite pan out, but it was a great week. I'm already looking forward to Paris (2024 Games).

On the reasons behind his return to form last week

"I think the Olympics was a big week for me last week because I played with more freedom there and that obviously panned out well. I played my best tournament I've played since the US.Open, which was good.

"So that's the focus for me over these next few weeks; play with as much freedom as possible. That's really it. I know if I do that, then I'll be able to play some of my best golf or at least give myself the chance to play my best golf.

"More freedom, less thought, more fun, try to have a little more fun with it and then go from there."

READ MORE: Will jet-lag be a factor in this week's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational?

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