Rory McIlroy wary of falling into the comfort zone
RORY McIlroy is determined not to fall into the comfort zone as he looks to claim one of the few big titles so far missing from his glittering CV in the Players Championship.
As well as winning four major titles, McIlroy has won two World Golf Championship events and four FedEx Cup play-off tournaments, with his victory in last year's Tour Championship giving him the overall title and USD 10million bonus.
Even that enormous sum pales into insignificance when compared with the Holywood man's off-course earnings, which were this week boosted by a multi-million pound equipment deal with TaylorMade.
McIlroy also comes into the so-called 'Fifth Major' on the back of his recent wedding, but the 28-year-old – who is in his 10th full season as a professional – insists he still has the ambition to achieve much more in the game.
"It's something I've struggled with a couple of times in my career," McIlroy said in a pre-tournament press conference. "Once I got to world number one it's like 'Okay, what else?' You do it all over again. And then you do it all over again.
"There's a certain level of comfort that professional golfers have nowadays, because of the likes of the FedEx Cup, but I still don't think that we lack the drive to become the golfers we wanted to be when we were kids.
"I still don't feel like I'm halfway there to achieving what I want to achieve. I'm 28 years old. If I can play competitively for the next 15 years, I feel like I've still got a lot left to give."
Asked if getting married would change his attitude, McIlroy added: "This game is what I've wanted to do for my whole life, so I'll always be determined, I'll always be intense and try to get the most out of my game.
"I don't think that will change just because I'm married or not. My mentality on the golf course I feel will just be the same. It might help me get over tough losses a little bit easier, I'll have to tell you when the time comes.
"But I'm in a great place in my life and I feel very settled and very lucky to be in this position, and now it's just about trying to make the most of, I guess, the fortune that I've had."
McIlroy has finished 12th, eighth, sixth and eighth in the last four years at Sawgrass, but has not played competitively since finishing in a tie for seventh in the Masters.
Defending champion Jason Day is also playing his first event since Augusta as he attempts to achieve something which proved beyond the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.
Since the inception of the Players Championship in 1974 no player has successfully defended the title, with only six players managing to win the prestigious event more than once.
Day has recorded just one top-10 finish in 2017 and has fallen more than five points behind world number one Dustin Johnson in the rankings, but echoed McIlroy's determination to "climb the mountain" once again.
"There's guys out here that are comfortable to stay in that place, whatever the base camp they're at," Day said. "It's a good living out here, I must admit. We play for a lot of money.
"I could kind of just cruise it in and make a good living and enjoy having a little bit of fame and fortune that goes along with it.
"But at the end of my career, I will be severely angry at myself if I did not give it 100 per cent. I think it's kind of in my blood. I was actually thinking about this the other day, what kept Tiger Woods going for over 13 straight years of being number one. What kept Greg Norman going? What kept Nick Faldo going?
"And I think part of it is because they're striving for greatness. They love the competitiveness of winning but also being the best. When I retire one day, if I can put away the clubs and know that I've given it 100 per cent I'll be happy with it, because I've done my best.
"But I just don't like playing bad golf, and sitting there thinking that I could have done more just kills me already thinking about retiring and knowing that I could have done more."