Slumping Rory: ‘I just need rounds’

It’s like chalk and cheese. That’s how Rory McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked golfer, explained the recent problem with his game. Through two events this year, McIlroy has shown nothing close to his 2012 form.

McIlroy said Tuesday at PGA National, where he enter this week’s Honda Classic as defending champion, that he is searching for the swing that catapulted him to the top of the game last summer.

After a tie for fifth at the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he won the PGA Championship for his second major title. After a tie for 24th at The Barclays, he won the Deutsche Bank and BMW playoff events before a tie for 10th at the Tour Championship. Six events, three victories and more than $4.8 million to cap a four-win, $8 million year.

This year, he opened the season with a missed cut in the European Tour event at Abu Dhabi and lost last week in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Hence, the famous British idiom about chalk and cheese, he says.

"I knew coming into it was going to be a bit of a process, and I knew there were going to be comments if it didn’t happen for me right way," said McIlroy, alluding to his switch to Nike equipment this season. "I’m only two tournaments into the season. I’ve still got . . . 20 to go. So it’s not like I’m in any rush; it’s not like I’m pushing for answers or I’m looking for answers. Everything’s there. It’s just a matter of putting it all together."

McIlroy’s victory last year at the Honda Classic solidified his presence among the tour’s stars with the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. He surrendered that spot two weeks later, to Luke Donald, but eventually reclaimed it after some back-and-forth with the Englishman.

Since winning the PGA Championship, McIlroy, 23, a Northern Irishman who recently relocated to nearby Jupiter, Fla., has been in the top spot, even if he has yet to validate it early in 2013.

"The biggest thing for me was just finding a driver that suited me, and I feel like I’ve got one now that really works," McIlroy said. "I think the more you play with it, the more confidence you have in it. I just need rounds. I just need tournament rounds to get that confidence in it."

After his exit last week against Shane Lowry in the Match Play, McIlroy played a practice round Sunday with Tiger Woods.

Woods, the No. 2-ranked player and also a Jupiter resident, invited his new neighbor to Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound for a friendly match. Each won one match, McIlroy said — or, one more than they did last week in Arizona.

The mood Thursday won’t be as friendly, with McIlroy seeking a game closer to last summer’s than this winter’s.

He expects to be playing PGA National’s demanding Champion Course and its vaunted Bear Trap finishing holes through the weekend, with questions about his game and equipment behind him.

"Usually, the scoring isn’t that low," McIlroy said of PGA National. "I think I won last year with 12 under par. So if you can limit the mistakes around here, you’re going to do well."