RORY McILROY knows he can handle his dry spell as things will never be as bad as when he was reduced to tears in his early days as a pro.
He tees off in The Open tomorrow desperately looking for some form after three missed cuts in his last four starts.
But the world No 4 says he quickly learned that life as a pro was not all be sunshine and roses when he first joined the ranks ten years ago.
He explained: “There is a feeling of isolation when you are going through the highs and lows.
“I really felt it the first year I played on the European Tour in 2008, I was travelling to these far-flung places in the world on my own and I remember how low I felt after missing cuts.
“When I missed my third cut in a row, it was in Korea, I remember going back to the hotel room that night and I was just bawling my eyes out.
“I was lonely. I was homesick. The professional game just wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be at the start.
“It was one of those times where you realise this isn’t going to be easy as I thought it would be. I would have to persevere and put my head down.
Meet the stunning golf Wags who are getting ready to cheer on their fellas during this year’s Open
som like it hot
Who is Laci Kay Somers? Playboy model and Instagram star who has been linked with Tiger Woods
Place your bets
The Open 2017 betting tips: Latest odds and predictions ahead of Royal Birkdale showpiece
Paul Casey warms up for Open with gruelling 300-mile bike ride and reveals what he misses most about England
no fowl play
Who is Allison Stokke? Meet golf star Rickie Fowler’s girlfriend, the sportswear model and pole vaulter
“There were a few dark moments that first year on tour, especially when you are in places where it’s so unfamiliar to you. Places like China and Korea and the Far East. It is different.
“That is when you have to rely on your support team. And I feel like these past years there has been a constant in my support team.
“My caddie, JP, has been on my bag for almost ten years and I can always turn to my coach, Michael Bannon, and talk through what is going wrong.
“My mum and dad are always there for me of course, and I’ve now got my wife, Erica at my side. To have her to lean on and have her support is huge.
“It’s an individual sport, but it’s reassuring to know there is a big team around you that you can depend on when you need to.”
McIlroy is reluctant to make excuses for his slump. But there is no doubt his two lay-offs to rest a rib injury — either side of his glitzy wedding — have contributed to his loss of form after he ended 2016 on a high.
Two victories in the four FedEx Cup events earned him the overall title, and a near-£8million bonus. But he then overdid things practising with different clubs following Nike’s withdrawal from the equipment market. That caused the rib problem that is still troubling him.
He says he does not feel it when he is playing, but he has had to restrict his practice time to avoid aggravating it.
After missing out on the chance to defend his Open title in 2015 when he ruptured knee ligaments during a football kickabout with pals, McIlroy is understandably cautious.
He added: “I have had a couple of injuries before that were not golf related. But this is the first one that has come from playing. And it has been frustrating.
“It is a setback. You have to be patient and sometimes it is hard. You turn on the TV and you are watching the tournaments, seeing these guys win, and feel like you are losing ground to them.
“I started the year as No 2 in the world and I am now world No 4. It doesn’t really sit well with me.
“I haven’t been on a good run yet this year, but I am feeling much better.
“The injury is still something I am going to have to manage over the next few months.
“The reason I began looking after myself better — watching what I eat, going into the gym — was more for longevity than anything else.
“I have struggled with my lower back since I was 18. I have a troublesome disc — it is wear and tear from 25 years of swinging a golf club.
“That is going to take its toll on the body. Even if people don’t think golf is an athletic sport, you still put forces on your body which are pretty big.
“It’s a matter of looking after yourself. Making sure you are strong in the right areas. I don’t need to be as big as a rugby player, but I need to be strong in the right areas.
“If I do that then maybe my career will end at a later stage and it gives me more chances to win more tournaments and Majors.”
His next Major victory looks a long way off — unless McIlroy can find the same spark that ignited his season towards the end of last year.
Keep up to date with ALL the transfer news and gossip on our blog