Rory McIlroy sets himself up for big season in 2014

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Following golf is fun.

Following golf is even more fun when Rory McIlroy is feeling it.

That strut that only a rich, insanely talented 24-year-old could possess. That swing that can swipe any kind of shot, that grin that says, "Not this week, guys."

There's not a lot to dislike about McIlroy, other than the fall in his game in 2013, but he's working on fixing that.

There he is finishing T6 at the HSBC Champions at the beginning of November, with everybody but Tiger Woods playing.

There he is finishing a quiet T5 at the European Tour Championship at the end of November.

There he is on Sunday beating Adam Scott with a birdie on the final hole of the Australian Open as Scott tried to take the triple crown of Australia.

You could argue they were his three most impressive performances of the calendar year.

He said all the right things after but that belied how he actually felt.

"I am really pleased I was able to take on one of the best players in the world down the stretch and come out on top."

"I wanted to get a win and finally I've been able to get one."

But it doesn't take a body language expert to watch the video of him at the top of the page, the one where he gets his first win in 53 weeks, to see that he didn't want to get a win. He needed to get one.

Scott could feel it, too. McIlroy, coming.

"So it's just the way golf is. I'm guttered. I felt like I never had a better chance to win the Aussie Open but it was tight the whole back nine. Rory played so good."

You hear that? That's the Masters champ and world's No. 2 talking about how good Rory is playing right now.

A far cry from whatever that season was we saw from Rory for most of the year.

McIlroy knows he has it going on right now.

"It's been a frustrating year but I've worked hard and it's been a process, trying to get back to winning golf tournaments again. It was nice to be able to do it today."

It's true that McIlroy went through a stretch like this at the end of last year that implied a great 2013, as well -- a lengthy stretch where he played well and won. He was subsequently derailed by a number of things. But it's safe to say he won't be dealing with the mental issues he battled all year long this time around.

The Nike foundation has been set, he's starting to get things cleared up in court and Caroline Wozniacki is, at least for now, still his girlfriend.

I think this means big things for McIlroy in 2014.

Tiger Woods thinks so, too. He actually predicted this win for McIlroy back in October.

"He is playing better and swinging a lot better. You can see that some of the stuff he and his coach are working on are starting to come together.

"He's starting to put together a few good rounds, now he just has to make a few more putts. I can definitely see him winning sometime this year because his game has come around."

So here's to hoping that the youngster can bridge the gap between 2013 and '14 and carry his Australian Open win over to next season.

Because golf needs him to be great. It needs him grinning that goofy grin on Saturdays and strutting that arrogant, awesome strut on Sundays.

McIlroy thinks he's ready.

"Since the end of September, I have just felt in a better place mentally," McIlroy said.

"Everything has been coming together the way I wanted."

For golf's sake, let's hope it stays that way.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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