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Rory McIlroy has a hate-love relationship with The Players

After missing the cut his first 3 times here, McIlroy has learned to love it

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the 2018 Masters Tournament on April 8.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the 2018 Masters Tournament on April 8. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A change in scenery might be just what Rory McIlroy needed.

It's no secret McIlroy wasn't a fan of The Players Championship after a lack of success at Sawgrass early on in his career. After all, he missed the cut in 2009, 2010 and 2012. He didn't play in 2011.

But on Wednesday, McIlroy told reporters he loves the course these days. He said switching up where he stays during the week may have made all the difference.

"I started staying at the beach a few years ago and that's made the event more enjoyable," said McIlroy, who has made three top-10 finishes here in the past five years. "I stayed on property before and I just felt I couldn't get away from it. So to go stay on the beach now, it's a nice release from everything that is going on around the event. So I actually put a lot of it down that."

In the past, McIlroy said, he tried to put his head down and make it through the lobby of his hotel quickly, so he wouldn’t be held up. Now, he's found a much more relaxing atmosphere at the beach.

"I just go for walks," he said. "Even just sit out on the balcony and look out and sort of get away from it a little bit. The beach here is so much better than in Jupiter. It’s big and flat and you can run on it, you can walk on it and really doesn’t pull your legs out like down south." 

With a more relaxed attitude this week, McIlroy said now is the time to make a run at taking home the trophy on Sunday.

"This is my ninth time here so I’m no spring chicken anymore," he said. "I’ve got a few years under my belt and it took me a few years to figure it out, but I’ve had a few top 10’s here. I haven’t been quite right in contention, but I’ve been close enough. So yeah, I think it is about time I step up and give myself a chance on Sunday."

McIlroy will begin his 2018 Players Championship at 8:27a.m. Thursday. He will start off on the 10th tee with Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.