McIlroy admits he felt ‘suffocated’ by Irish Open in the past
World number two says club throwing at US Open ‘wasn’t right thing to do’
Rory McIlroy shakes hands with former Russian international Andriy Shevchenko following today’s pro-am prior to the start of the Irish Open at Carton House in Maynooth. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has a full complement of clubs at his disposal for this week’s Irish Open, but admits the pressures that come with the tournament have left him feeling “suffocated” in the past.
The final round of the US Open a fortnight ago saw McIlroy throw one club in frustration and then lean so hard on another that he bent the shaft out of shape on his way to a quadruple-bogey eight on the 11th hole.
The offending nine iron has since been repaired as the world number two seeks to do the same to his reputation in a season which has yet to produced a victory and saw him walk off the course midway through the second round of the Honda Classic, where he was defending champion.
“The club throw, I hit the fairway on the fifth hole and had to play my second shot left-handed,” said McIlroy, whose tee shot rolled off the sloping fairway onto the bank of a water hazard. “It was unlucky, it was frustration, whatever you want to call it.
“And then on 11 I hit my tee shot in the water and dropped and hit my third shot in the water. I just got frustrated. It definitely wasn’t the right thing to do.
“I wouldn’t recommend anyone or anyone watching on TV or any kids to start throwing their clubs or bending their nine irons. But the nine iron is intact and got a new shaft this week and it’s ready to go.
“I guess there’s other ways to show disappointment. Taking it out on your golf clubs probably isn’t the right way to do it. Everybody is going to get frustrated or angry or disappointed in a bad shot and obviously I’m no different.
“It doesn’t really set a good example, I guess, for people watching me and maybe trying to emulate what I’m doing.”
McIlroy’s first experience of the Irish Open came as a 16-year-old amateur in 2005, when he shot rounds of 71 and 81 to miss the cut and he remembers being thrown out of bars on Friday evening as he was too young to drink.
But while the biggest crowds that week were with Colin Montgomerie in the group behind, McIlroy will be the star attraction at Carton House as he looks to rediscover the form which made him world number one and brought him two Major titles.
Asked how he would manage expectations and avoid feeling suffocated, McIlroy said: “That’s actually a good word. That’s something I’ve felt in a couple of Irish Opens is suffocated and having that burden and that pressure and that expectation,” added McIlroy, who played alongside former Russian international Andriy Shevchenko in today’s pro-am.
“It’s much better having fans for you and really wanting you to do well than people rooting against you, so it’s a great privilege to have. The best thing that I can do this week is go out and enjoy myself, smile, and try and play the best that I can and show everyone how much I appreciate their support.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do the last couple of years, just try to embrace the whole week and enjoy it. You don’t get a chance to come back here very often and play, so it’s nice to be able to do it and enjoy it while you do it.
“I guess it’s just a little different here, because I guess you don’t feel so much that people necessarily want you to win at any other tournament.
“Of course you have your fans and people that come to watch you and support you, but here everyone lives every shot with you and you make a birdie and there’s a huge roar and if you miss a putt, you can hear the disappointment in the crowd.”
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell will attempt to put his US Open nightmare behind him by ticking an item off his golfing “bucket list” this week.
McDowell was among the favourites at Merion a fortnight ago given his two tournament victories this year and superb US Open record – he was second last year after his victory in 2010 – but missed the cut after rounds of 76 and 77.
However, the 33-year-old has the ideal opportunity to bounce back at Carton House.
“There’s no doubt the Irish Open is on my golfing bucket list,” McDowell said. “It’s an event that I’ve never really competed in. It’s an event I would love to win and I would love to add it to my CV.
“To win your national Open is a very special win in a player’s heart. It’s been almost 70 years since a Northern Irish player has won this event (Fred Daly in 1946). That’s a stat we would love to change this weekend.
“There’s no doubt I would love to win this one. It’s certainly one I’ll be giving 100 per cent to this week.
“It kicks off a very busy summer of golf for me and Merion has done nothing but motivate me and make me more hungry for being in the mix come the weekend. I’m ready to go this week and I’m looking forward to it.”