AKRON - Rory McIlroy wants his British Open triumph to be a springboard to more success this season while Tiger Woods is seeking to jump start a 2014 campaign hindered by injury.
Former world number one Woods is an eight-time winner at Firestone Country Club, and he sees no reason this week’s World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational can’t see him back in the winner’s circle for the first time since he was sidelined by a March 31 back operation. “There are certain venues like here, Torrey Pines and Bay Hill where no matter what my form is going into that week, I just somehow feel good,” Woods said on Wednesday. “It does not mean I am going to play well, but I still have that feeling.
“This is only my third event back after back surgery and that’s something that I have had to keep in mind. I’ve been in this situation before and it takes a bit of time.” Since his return from the back trouble that forced him to miss the Masters and the US Open, Woods has missed the cut at the PGA Tour’s National and delivered his worst ever 72-hole performance as a professional in a major at the British Open. Woods isn’t giving up on the possibility that he could yet add to his haul of 14 major titles at the PGA Championship next month, nor is surrendering to the idea that he won’t qualify for the US tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs or be selected to the US Ryder Cup team.
“I would like to win these next two weeks and not have to worry about anything — and that’s the plan,” Woods said. “That’s the mindset and the focus.” However, Woods acknowledged that returning from a back injury was tougher than his previous comeback from knee injury. “The back injury is way more debilitating than I thought,” he said. “People I have talked to who had the same procedure can’t understand how I am back playing so soon, but I need to get much stronger and more explosive than I am now.”
McIlroy, meanwhile, goes into the Bridgestone seeking a victory that could let him supplant Australian Adam Scott atop the rankings. “World number one is a big goal of mine and I’ve never won a World Golf Championship,” said McIlroy, who hasn’t topped the rankings since March of 2013. “That’s another thing I’d like to knock off the list.” He admitted that in the days since his Open victory at Hoylake he has been enjoying his possession of the famed Claret Jug — taking photos of it beside his television and even on top of the toilet. It’s with him in Akron, but McIlroy said he wouldn’t be going into this week’s tournament thinking about past success.
“There’s a lot of big tournaments left this year, a lot of golf left to play, and a lot of things I still want to achieve,” he said. “I want to move on and start by playing well again this week.” McIlroy has finished in the top six in two of the past three years at Firestone Country Club, and he believes the course sets up well for him. “It’s a long golf course and it’s playing just a bit longer with all the rain they’ve had,” he said. “It’s a course I’ve done pretty well on before and I feel comfortable on.”