McIlroy starts a new season before another season is over

NAPA, Calif. (AP) Rory McIlroy is starting a new season on the PGA Tour before finishing his other season on the European Tour.

Such is the world of a golfer who travels all over it.

A recent study conducted by one of McIlroy’s sponsors revealed that over the last 12 months, he has spent 350 hours in the air, 287 nights in a hotel and was in 118 airports. And that’s just the travel. He also walked 932 miles on golf courses.

”That’s the sort of travel that you have to do to be a worldwide player,” McIlroy said Wednesday. ”It’s crazy numbers. I definitely see a day where those numbers are going to drop. No way I could sustain that for the rest of my career. Whenever that day is I’m not sure, but for now, that’s the life I live.

”I’m enjoying it, so I’ll do it for a while.”

McIlroy is the star attraction at the Frys.com Open, which starts Thursday at Silverado to kick off a new season on the PGA Tour. And to think it has been all of 17 days since Jordan Spieth ended the previous season as the FedEx Cup champion.

McIlroy is at Silverado because he was among eight players who took part in an exhibition in Turkey three years ago that was held the same week as this PGA Tour event. They agreed to play the Frys.com Open once over the next three years.

Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson also are at Silverado, and Tiger Woods was supposed to join them until he recently had a second back surgery. The other three – Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan – played last year. Mahan is the only one who returned.

It only adds to McIlroy’s busy end of the year no matter the tour or the season.

After a week off, he is headed to Turkey, Shanghai and Dubai to finish off the Race to Dubai that he currently leads on the European Tour.

”I feel like I’m in the middle of a nice little run to the end of the year,” McIlroy said. ”I guess for a lot of guys, even the guys that played a full PGA Tour schedule last season and then played the Presidents Cup and they’re coming here, it’s a lot of golf. But as I said, I haven’t played as much as those guys, so I’m happy to be playing and happy to play quite a bit until the end of the year.”

In some respects, McIlroy started another ”new” season in August.

He injured his ankle playing football the first weekend in July and wound up missing two months, including his British Open title defense at St. Andrew, before returning at the PGA Championship. He has tried to pace himself since then to make sure the ankle is fully healed.

”I guess coming back at the PGA for me was a start of a new season, anyway, so it’s been like two mini-seasons a little bit,” he said.

This is the third straight year of the tour’s wraparound season – October to September – and the Frys.com Open has managed to attract a stronger field each year. It helps having McIlroy and Rose at Silverado, though the field includes players who were not part of the Turkey deal. Hideki Matsuyama, Chris Kirk and Steven Bowditch came straight over from the Presidents Cup.

Bowditch described his offseason as a ”10-hour flight from Korea.”

Kirk could barely make it from the practice range to the tee box without players stopping to congratulate him for his 15-foot birdie putt that was the most significant in another U.S. victory in the Presidents. It felt as if he had just won a tournament.

It’s easy for McIlroy to feel as though it has been a long time since he won, though the year hasn’t been a total loss. He has three victories – the Dubai Desert Classic, Match Play Championship and Wells Fargo Championship – and still was No. 1 in the world until three weeks ago.

Not winning the three majors he played made it feel like a lost year, though McIlroy isn’t looking back.

”I’m focused on going forward and trying to finish this season well,” McIlroy said. ”I want to try and win the Race to Dubai over in Europe. I’m still leading that. I have three tournaments left to try and clinch that.”

He also has the best chance to end the year where he started – at No. 1 in the world.

Spieth is now at the top after his win at the Tour Championship three weeks ago, though it’s so close that Jason Day will return to No. 1 next week. McIlroy has more tournaments left, including three strong fields in Asia.

Spieth and Day have inspired McIlroy more than they have motivated him.

”I’m ready to get back into play and to compete again,” he said. ”Since I’ve come back from the injury I’ve had a couple good finishes, but not really been in contention. So I want to get back in contention, have chances to win golf tournaments. That’s really my focus until the end of the year. I’ve four opportunities to do that.”