By Mark Lamport-Stokes
THOUSAND OAKS, California, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Just three days after winning his first title of the year in Australia, a jet-lagged Rory McIlroy is looking forward to one last tournament before he puts his clubs away for a well-earned rest.
The Northern Irishman has ended a largely frustrating 2013 campaign by producing good form in recent events and would dearly love to sign off on a triumphant note at this week's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods.
"I'm happy this is the last event of the year," world number six McIlroy told reporters at Sherwood Country Club on Wednesday. "It will be nice to have a few weeks off.
"This last part of the season was all about trying to build momentum going into 2014, and I feel like for the most part I've done that.
"A couple of good finishes in Asia and I got a win in Australia. I'd love to get myself in the mix this week and finish the season off on a really high note."
McIlroy was delighted to end his title drought with a one-shot victory over local favourite Adam Scott at the Australian Open on Sunday, but felt he did not need that win for any form of validation.
"Did I need the win? Probably not," McIlroy said. "Was it nice to get the win? Of course. But I felt like I saw enough good golf in there to know that it was very close, and it wasn't going to be long before I did win.
"Regardless of the results, I knew that my game was coming around, and that was the most important thing. What I was happy with the most was the limited amount of times that I have gotten in contention this year, I have played well.
"I have played well down the stretch. I've played well under pressure, and that is something that I really have improved on the last few years."
Probably the biggest test for McIlroy this year has been with his mental approach to the game as he continued to battle poor form after ruling the golfing roost in 2012.
"I'm very hard on myself," said the 24-year-old, who clinched his second major title by a record eight shots at last year's PGA Championship.
"I feel like I'm emotionally connected to my golf game in terms of, if I play bad, I'll be in a bad mood. If I play well, I'll be in a good mood. The way I play golf shouldn't determine who I am as a person.
"That's sort of carried through not just in my golf game, it's just how I am, my demeanour and everything. That's something I feel like I've gotten better at and something I need to continue to get better at."
Asked if he was in a good mood this week as he prepared for Thursday's opening round at Sherwood, McIlroy smiled: "Yeah, I'm in a great mood. I'm happy." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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