Rory McIlroy insists his best years are yet to come as he prepares to defend his title at The Players Championship in the US.
McIlroy will this weekend attempt to defend the title he won in 2019 for a second time, as last year’s tournament was called off after the first round amid the pandemic.
The Northern Irishman had been in fine form in the lead up to the 2020 event, arriving at Florida’s TPC Sawgrass as world No.1.
But McIlroy has found it a comparative struggle after golf restarted from its three-month break.
He’s dropped out of the top 10 and has just endured a frustrating weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, finishing eight shots behind winner Bryson DeChambeau.
The 31-year-old has not won any of golf’s majors since 2014, but he disputes that his best golf could be behind him.
“I’ve talked about this before: you have to be an eternal optimist in this game,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“And I truly believe that my best days are ahead of me, and you have to believe that.
“There’s no point in me being out here if I didn’t think that. That’s just not part of my psyche or anyone’s psyche out here.”
McIlroy accepts he will likely find this weekend’s tournament more difficult than two years ago, but he remains confident he can challenge.
“I feel like I can go out there this week and string four good rounds together, but it’s maybe just a bit more of a challenge than it maybe felt a couple years ago,” he added.