Rory McIlroy: British Open win at Royal Portrush would be special
'I haven’t tried to hide the fact that I'm playing a Major championship basically at home'
Rory McIlroy during the final round of the US Open at Pebble Beach. “I felt like I did a lot of good things [at Pebble Beach] even though I didn’t win the tournament.” Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy can no longer push the fact away that the 148th British Open at Royal Portrush in Co Antrim is just a month away. Day by day it’s getting closer, and with it the chance to claim a fifth career Major.
One that would be the most special of them all?
“Yeah, 100 per cent...I haven’t tried to hide the fact that I'm playing a Major championship basically at home, I didn’t know if I’d ever have an opportunity to do that. I have to go out with a good mindset and obviously not let the occasion get the better of me, hopefully produce some good golf and give myself a chance,” said McIlroy.
Although McIlroy has opted not to play in next month’s Irish Open at Lahinch, gearing his schedule to target the Claret Jug, the 30-year-old Northern Irishman claimed he would use his past experiences of competing in the Irish Open to adjust to the task ahead...and that he would take a more selfish approach in his bid for glory.
Of the added pressure of trying to win on home turf, McIlroy said: “It’s definitely a situation that’s happened to me in the Irish Open before, and you have to realise that as much as you want to win for other people and for a lot of different things, the number one thing is you want to win for yourself. It took me a few years playing Irish Opens to realise that.
“Golf is a selfish sport, and you want to win for yourself. You want to have that under your belt, and everything else is just a by-product of that. If you really harness that support you’re getting, and use it to your advantage and not feel like it’s a burden, then it can only help.”
The British Open takes place at Royal Portrush from July 18th-21st, returning to the Dunluce links for the first time since 1951.
“Whatever happens at Portrush, at this point in my career I want to win for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to win an Open championship before [in 2014], and I’d dearly love to win another one.
“I think it obviously will make it more special if I could win at Portrush, but I just have to treat it like every other Open championship that I’ve played the last few years.”
Since winning the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale, McIlroy – who missed the defence of his title in 2015 when sustaining an ankle injury playing football – has contended in subsequent years: fifth in 2016, fourth in 2017 and runner-up last year.
McIlroy has not won a Major since his US PGA success in 2014, but has 10 top-10s in 12 appearances on tour this season, among them two wins, in The Players and the RBC Canadian Open. A tied-ninth finish in the US Open at Pebble Beach last week gave him a second top-10 in this year’s Majors, to go with his tied-eighth at the US PGA.
McIlroy has put his greater consistency down to a change in attitude.
“I’ve just really made an effort to focus on my attitude and focus on all of the things that I’ve said before this year, about having just a little more perspective in my life and around the game, and knowing that golf isn’t the only thing that, I guess, defines me.
“So I try to treat the wins and losses sort of the same, try to take the positives from every week.
“I felt like I did a lot of good things [at Pebble Beach] even though I didn’t win the tournament. I didn’t walk away with the trophy, [but] I took a lot of positives from it.
“I think being more at peace, not getting too high, not getting too low, especially in our game of golf, it can only be a benefit.
“I think that the consistent golf that I’ve shown over the past five or six months, or basically all this year, has a lot to do with that attitude. I’m trying to just keep in a good mindset.”
McIlroy has a three-week break from tournament play, resuming at the Scottish Open the week ahead of Royal Portrush. He then plays in the WGC in Memphis. His aim is to have an extra piece of silverware in his luggage for that transatlantic flight.
* Rory McIlroy, founder of GOLFPASS, was speaking at the launch of the digital membership programme into Ireland and Britain. One of the exclusive deals to members is the opportunity to purchase a special edition TaylorMade 61 lob wedge, so called to mark his course record 61 on the Dunluce links.