McIlroy places faith in his new driver
World number two one of six Irishmen in the field alongside fellow Major winners Pádraig Harrington, Graham McDowell and Darren Clarke
Rory McIlroy chips out of a bunker ahead of the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
The irony can’t be lost on Rory McIlroy that, as he puts a prototype Nike Covert VRS cavity-backed driver with an adjustable hosel into his bag for this 142nd edition of the British Open, a weapon he hopes will cure his ills off the tee, there are a great many others – among them Phil Mickelson and Jason Day – who won’t use a driver at all, at all in this examination.
Such different, strategic game-plans add to the intrigue for this Major on a links where once-green grass has developed yellow and brown tints as fairways have firmed-up under glorious sunshine. The fairness of the links, though, means players won’t suffer anything like the wild and wicked bounces of other courses, of say Royal St Georges; and it is only their own waywardness which will likely trip them up.
McIlroy, the world number two, has prepared diligently this past fortnight in seeking to reignite a season that has yet to find any sustained sparkle. Yesterday, the Ulsterman showed some life of his own in reacting to the comments from Nick Faldo earlier in the week which suggested McIlroy needed to focus more on his golf.
Of that advice proffered by Faldo, McIlroy responded: “I saw what he said, (that) I should be at the course nine to five. I actually was on the range at 6:15 (on Tuesday), and got out of the gym at 6:15, actually a 12-hour day compared to his eight-hour day. It is what it is, and Nick should know how hard this game is at times. And he’s been in our position before. And he should know how much work that we all do put into it.”
In all, including the two-day reconnaissance visit he paid here last week, McIlroy has played 108 holes of golf in different wind directions. He is ready, as familiar with the links as anyone. Yet, ask him what shape his game is in, and you get a non-committal response.
“Promising,” replied McIlroy, as if even he doesn’t know when it will all click into place. Now? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
Muirfield is not the course to bring an out-of-sorts game to. The wind may not be a huge factor – with gusts predicted to reach no more than nine miles an hour on each of the four days – but the fast and firm fairways, lined with high fescue rough, will demand game plans that leave little room for error.
A large number of players have opted to leave the driver out of the bag, preferring to use (at most) a three-wood off the tees on the longer holes.
Not McIlroy. His intent is to use the driver “anywhere between five and seven” times in a round, depending on the wind. The new driver is slightly different to the one which has caused him such angst, most recently when missing the cut in the Irish Open. “More a pear shape,” is how he described the head, “but it encourages the club face to close over a little bit more. My bad drive this year has been losing it to the right, so this is encouraging the club face to square up on impact.”