New Delhi: Rory McIlroy believes Sunday`s Arnold Palmer Invitational triumph provided vindication to his assertion that he was close to his best as the Northern Irishman hopes to carry that form to a maiden U.S Masters victory at Augusta next month.
McIlroy entered last week`s tournament in patchy form after missing the cut in two of his four PGA Tour starts this year but the 28-year-old produced a spectacular final round at the Bay Hill Golf Club to win a first title since 2016.
"I have even more optimism now," McIlroy told reporters. "It was just more validation that what I`ve been doing has been correct. It all sort of just came together....I`m optimistic not just the next few weeks but the whole season. It`s great to get a win early. I`ve got all that great stuff to fall back on, how I handled Sunday.
"I`ve always been able to turn negatives into positives... I went with the feeling that felt quite comfortable going into last week. And I`ll hopefully continue to have that feeling for a while."
McIlroy said that winning was his main goal and dismissed the notion that silencing his critics gave him extra motivation. "I don`t care because people don`t know the full story," he added. "They make comments and they speculate but they don`t have the facts 100 percent so they never really know. It`s all speculation."
McIlroy faces Peter Uihlein in his opening group contest at the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas later on Wednesday, two weeks before the Masters tees off on April 5. A victory in Augusta would give the Briton a career grand slam of major titles.
The 2015 winner has been handed a favourable Group 6 draw that includes Americans Uihlein and Brian Harman, who will be making their tournament debuts, and Venezuela`s Jhonattan Vegas at the Austin Country Club.
British Open champion Jordan Spieth, who is also competing at the Match Play event, believes four-time major champion McIlroy is the player to beat at any tournament provided the Northern Irishman can maintain his fitness.
"Whether he won last week or not, he`s always a force," Spieth said. "He just needs to be healthy. And I think most of last season, it was a struggle for him...So just being rested, healthy and on the right path meant this year and going forward, Rory is Rory. And so he should always be a favourite at any event."