Rory McIlroy celebrates winning the Players Championship
Rory McIlroy was the second player from the UK to win the Players Championship, following Scotland’s Sandy Lyle in 1987
Dates: 11-14 March Venue: Sawgrass, Pontre Vedra Beach, Florida
Coverage: Reports daily on the BBC Sport website, plus live BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra commentary and website text commentary on the third and final rounds

Rory McIlroy says he believes his best days are still ahead of him as he seeks to rediscover his “spark” at this week’s Players Championship.

McIlroy, who will be defending champion at Sawgrass, said he felt “dejected” after a final-round 76 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.

But the four-time major winner said he would not be switching from caddie Harry Diamond or coach Michael Bannon.

“I truly believe that my best days are ahead of me,” he said.

McIlroy’s last victory came in the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions and his most recent major title was the 2014 US PGA Championship, but the 31-year-old is adamant the best of his career is not behind him.

“I don’t think you can ever think that,” he said. “You have to be an eternal optimist in this game and I truly believe that.

“There’s no point in me being out here if I didn’t think that.

Asked about changing his caddie or long-time coach, McIlory added: “I think more a change in philosophy or maybe what I’m trying to work on, maybe going in a slightly different direction.

“Swing-wise I think there’s some things that I’m working on that haven’t quite bedded in or I’m struggling to grasp what I’m trying to do, so that’s sort of what I meant, talking about going in a different direction.”

McIlroy won at Sawgrass in 2019, the last time the Players Championship was held, with the 2020 edition a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s been no-one else’s name added to the trophy after mine, so I guess I still am [defending champion], even though it’s a two-year thing,” he said.

“A lot has happened since. I’ll still try to rekindle those feelings and memories from two years ago, and hopefully that gives me the spark that I need to get my game in shape.”

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