Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McIlroy Driven in Bid to Find Top Form; THE BRITISH MASTERS at Close House, Northumberland

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McIlroy Driven in Bid to Find Top Form; THE BRITISH MASTERS at Close House, Northumberland

Article excerpt

ARELAXED Rory McIlroy made the most of a little help from his friends as he tries to end a disappointing season in style at the British Masters.

McIlroy, who was a late entry into the PS3million event after failing to qualify for the Tour Championship, carded a three-under-par 67 to lie four shots behind leaders Tyrrell Hatton and George Coetzee at Close House in Northumberland.

Yett it could have been a different story for the four-time major winner if a spectator had not found his ball inside the five-minute time limit after a wild drive on the 17th, his eighth hole of the day.

McIlroy produced a superb recovery from thick rough to the elevated green and went on to make three birdies on the front nine in his penultimate tournament of an injury-plagued season.

The former world number one will bring his season to an early end after next week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The 28-year-old said: "It's not a bad way to feel.

"You're not really looking ahead at anything, you're just concentrating on the round out there and not thinking about anything else.

"I feel like I'm not under any pressure to perform at all, I'm not putting myself under any pressure. "That's probably the reason I went out there and shot a decent score.

"I think if you asked 75 per cent of the guys out here they would say it would be nice to have some sort of an off-season.

"I'm just giving myself an off-season this year and looking forward to improving my health, improving my game and becoming a better player in 2018."

Speaking about the 17th, McIlroy admitted he feared a repeat of the final round in this year's Open at Royal Birkdale, when a wild drive on the 15th resulted in a lost ball.

He added: "I thought it was going to be the Open all over again.

"I've hit a few destructive tee shots like that over the past few weeks just by going for it.

"I was trying to get it to the front of the green and I was in two minds whether to hit it at that point or not because the guys in front were still on the green. I thought I'll just say sorry if it gets close to them."

Hatton had not made a halfway cut since May before finishing third in the Omega European Masters three weeks ago, a run of form he puts down to listening to "too many opinions" about his swing.

"I'm not a tech person and there were a few numbers being thrown around which I didn't want to know," Hatton said after a brilliant back nine of 30, which included a bogey on the 11th.

"My swing feels good now and I have a good friend Jonathan Bell on the bag and we're just trying to have a bit of fun.

"He's a pro himself and wanted to play on the EuroPro Tour this year but didn't have the funds.

"He'll work for me until the end of the season and hopefully that will give him a great platform for next year. …

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