Rory McIlroy backs his ability to bounce back as he sets sights on Open glory

‘That’s why I always say in golf, ‘there is always next week’, and that’s a great thing’

Rory McIlroy shares a laugh with playing partners Lee Westwood and Danny Willett during a practice round at Royal St George’s ahead of the British Open. Photograph:  Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Rory McIlroy shares a laugh with playing partners Lee Westwood and Danny Willett during a practice round at Royal St George’s ahead of the British Open. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

 

The glass half-full approach to positivity, as per Rory McIlroy. If you thought a missed cut at the Scottish Open would play on his mind at all, you’d be wrong. As far as the Northern Irishman was concerned, it gave him a head start on everyone else in getting ready for the 149th British Open at Royal St George’s and the extra time spent on the unusually lush and green terrain has been used well. He’s ready.

Anyway, historically, McIlroy has been one of those players who has used a missed cut as an incentive to bounce back. As recently as May, in fact, when he followed up a missed cut at the Masters with a win in his next outing in the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. Back in 2019, when a missed cut at the Memorial was followed with a win at the Canadian Open. In 2018, when a missed cut at the Valspar was followed by victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. You get the drift.

“I think in golf you always learn more about your game when you’ve missed a cut or struggled, or not played as well,” said McIlroy of his ability to bounce back. “I’ve always learnt more from disappointments and from not doing as well. I’ve always tried to learn, to figure out, ‘okay, why did this week not go so well?’ and then give yourself a couple of thoughts and they’re fresh in your mind going into the next week.

“That’s why I always say in golf, ‘there is always next week’, and that’s a great thing because you can right some wrongs pretty quickly and I’ve been able to do that in the past . . . golf always just gives you another opportunity to go out and play well and to see if you’ve learned from your mistakes. I’ve always made it a priority in my career to really try to learn from my mistakes, all the way back to what happened at Augusta in ’11 and going and winning the US Open the next Major.”

Rory McIlroy during his press conference at Royal St George’s ahead of the British Open. Photograph: R&A/PA Wire
Rory McIlroy during his press conference at Royal St George’s ahead of the British Open. Photograph: R&A/PA Wire

McIlroy’s record in the Open has, in fact, been consistently good apart from the blip of missing the cut at Royal Portrush in 2019 (when his response was to kick-on and win the FedEx Cup stateside). “It gave me a few million reasons to feel better,” he quipped. After his win at Hoylake in 2014, McIlroy missed out on defending in 2015 due to a football related injury but went 5th-4th-2nd from 2016 to 2018 in emphasising his fondness for linksland.

“Over the years I’ve just become more and more comfortable with this style of golf, and I think more than anything else, there’s a lot more variables in the Open Championship and on links courses. Once you learn that you can’t control those variables, then you just have to go out and accept whatever is given to you.

“I think as I’ve gotten a little more experience and matured, I’ve been able to play this championship a little bit better, and hopefully I can continue that record this week,” said McIlroy, who is still chasing a fifth career Major and first since his US PGA win of 2014.

McIlroy – grouped alongside Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith for the opening two rounds – has a 2-iron he found in his garage in his bag for this week but will probably have more use of his driver than he’d originally anticipated due to the softer nature of the links due to recent heavy rainfall. However, it is expected that the course will dry out as the week progresses, with the weather forecast predicting spells of sunshine allied with a stiff wind.

“The biggest thing here is the course, [playing] quite lush, quite green. [In practice rounds], we maybe weren’t getting the bounces that we’re accustomed to getting here at St. George’s with the bumpy fairways. Honestly, I think the course plays a little better that way, so I was pleasantly surprised.

“I walked away from the golf course on Saturday and Sunday thinking, ‘this is a much better golf course than I remember it being’, and I think that’s just because of the way it’s playing right now. I think it’s perfect, and as the days go on with a little bit of wind and sunshine, by the weekend it should just be absolutely perfect.

“It should be playing the way it should play . . . the biggest thing this week is if you do hit it off line, you’ve got some really thick, juicy rough on either side of the fairway, which you just have to avoid,” he suggested.

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