Rory McIlroy looking to go back to the future at Irish Open

29-year-old says he’s done well to get to this point but ‘there is more left in the tank’

 Rory McIlroy on the first fairway at the Pro-Am at Ballyliffin on Wednesday. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Rory McIlroy on the first fairway at the Pro-Am at Ballyliffin on Wednesday. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

 

Ironically, Rory McIlroy’s mood temporarily slipped into one of a darker shade, of deep thought. While all around him the evidence was of a holiday feel – sunshine, shorts, 99s and majestic scenery – the tournament host of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open here at on the Glashedy Links delved inside his mental process in trying to figure out how to achieve his full potential.

“People don’t understand how mental the game is,” said McIlroy of an area he has sought to manage on his own without joining a queue into a psychiatrist’s office. “I feel as if my mental approach to the game can be just better, that [it] could make the world of difference . . . . [to] not be careful, not try to be too perfect. Not to try to control things that you can’t control, [to] just go out and play your game. You know, get out of your own way, I guess . . . I just need to get back to playing the game like I was a teenager.”

McIlroy’s comments come on the back of a disappointing US Open last month where he adopted a rather conservative gameplan and paid the price of a missed cut. Just how aggressive he can be here on a links with fairways and greens firming up remains to be seen, but the 29-year-old Northern Irishman certainly seems to have taken a look inside his own head in his attempts to kick on.

Major titles

Not that his CV is in any way shabby, not in any way. With four Major titles and a total of 95 weeks spent as world number one, McIlroy has already achieved a lot more than the majority of players can ever dream of doing. But he wants to channel that bank of experience going forward, to go back to the past in a way.

“I’d like to think all the experience that I’ve gained over the past 10 years of being a pro will only help me be a better player going forward. Everything that I’ve done over those past few years, as long as I put the adequate time in to maintaining the physical side of the game, in terms of being able to hit the ball well and do all that stuff, with all the experience I’ve gained, I feel I’ll be better equipped to handle certain situations. I feel like it can only be an advantage . . . I’ve done well so far to get to this point. There is more left in the tank.”

McIlroy will seek to get the process going here on terrain he selected as tournament host, a links created by the design team of Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock but which is likely to lack the defence of any strong winds for the tournament. It could make for a birdie fest, with Graeme McDowell going out of his way during the pro-am to prepare his playing partners – who just happened to be club officials – that it could take a 25-under-par total to win.

Whether it will require anything like that will, of course, depend on course set-up and also on the wind (or lack of it). Whatever it takes to win, it takes, and McIlroy – in his fourth and final year as tournament host – didn’t give much credence to any suggestion that the field, for a €6 million purse, was in any way weak.

Busy

There are six players from the world’s top 50 playing. But McIlroy pointed out there are more world ranking points in Ballyliffin than the Greenbrier on the PGA Tour. “Look, people can’t play every week. It’s busy. I understand more than everyone else. I don’t want to try to twist anyone’s arm to play because I know I say no to guys all the time, and why would I expect them to say yes to me when I say no to them?

“I think it’s just the nature of world golf. It’s two weeks before The Open Championship. Obviously the Scottish Open [next week] has got a great date to attract some of the overseas players that want to be here for two weeks. I think it’s a bit too much to ask for some players to stay three weeks over here, and especially it’s Fourth of July today, which obviously is American Independence Day.”

It is what it is, with or without them, a great tournament on a great links; and McIlroy is part of a strong Irish contingent seeking to fend off invaders from literally every part of the globe. Perhaps it will be the time he starts to play like a carefree teenager again, in going back to the future.

THURSDAY
(Irish and British unless stated)
FIRST TEE - MORNING
07:30
Mark Foster, Pedro Oriol (Esp), Ashun Wu (Chn)
07:40 David Drysdale, Jens Dantorp (Swe), James Morrison
07:50 Chris Hanson, Grégory Havret (Fra), Henric Sturehed (Swe)
08:00 Adrien Saddier (Fra), Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Ashley Chesters 08:10 Matthew Baldwin, Andrea Pavan (Ita), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
08:20 Laurie Canter, David Horsey, Robert Rock
08:30 Stephen Gallacher, Jason Scrivener (Aus), Oliver Fisher
08:40 Marcus Fraser (Aus), Steven Brown, Nino Bertasio (Ita)
08:50 Peter Hanson (Swe), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Scott Hend (Aus)
09:00 Soomin Lee (Kor), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa)
09:10 Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Sam Horsfield, Wade Ormsby (Aus)
09:20 Nico Geyger (Chi), Renato Paratore (Ita), Charlie Ford (Eng)
09:30 Ruaidhrí McGee, Jason Norris (Aus), Marc Warren

AFTERNOON
12:30
Marcel Siem (Ger), Paul Waring, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
12:40 Pablo Larrazábal (Esp), Thomas Detry (Bel), Lee Slattery
12:50 Austin Connelly (Can), Dean Burmester (RSA), Gavin Moynihan
13:00
Peter Uihlein (USA), Julian Suri (USA), Haotong Li (Chn)
13:10 Paul Dunne, Alexander Levy (Fra), Matt Wallace
13:20 Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thorbjørn Olesen (Den), Rory McIlroy
13:30
Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood, Thomas Pieters (Bel)
13:40 Robert Karlsson (Swe), Russell Knox, Alexander Björk (Swe)
13:50 Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjørn (Den), Danny Willett
14:00 David Howell, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Paul McGinley
14:10
SSP Chawrasia (Ind), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (Esp), George Coetzee (Rsa)
14:20 Scott Fernandez (Esp), Richie Ramsay, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn)
14:30 Zander Lombard (Rsa), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Raphaël Jacquelin (Fra)

10TH TEE
MORNING
07:30
Ryan Evans, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Marcus Kinhult (Swe)
07:40 Scott Jamieson, Brett Rumford (Aus), Matthew Southgate
07:50 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Jorge Campillo (Esp)
08:00 Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Adrian Otaegui (Esp)
08:10 Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Andy Sullivan
08:20 Graeme McDowell, Jon Rahm (Esp), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp)
08:30 Pádraig Harrington, Chris Wood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
08:40 Jamie Donaldson, Eddie Pepperell, Lucas Bjerregaard (Den)
08:50 Søren Kjeldsen (Den), Jordan Smith, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
09:00 Carlos Pigem (Esp), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Jinho Choi (Kor)
09:10 Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Alvaro Quiros (Esp)
09:20 Bradley Neil, Cian McNamara, Simon Thornton
09:30
Gavin Green (Mas), David Lipsky (USA), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra)

AFTERNOON
12:30
Daniel Brooks, Sébastien Gros (Fra), Cormac Sharvin
12:40
Oliver Farr, Jeff Winther (Den), Neil O’Briain
12:50
Richard Bland, Andrew Dodt (Aus), Joakim Lagergren (Swe)
13:00 Andres Romero (Arg), Grégory Bourdy (Fra), Jeunghun Wang (Kor)
13:10 Romain Wattel (Fra), Lasse Jensen (Den), Chris Paisley
13:20 Matthew Nixon, Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Nacho Elvira (Esp)
13:30 Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Bradley Dredge, Matteo Manassero (Ita)
13:40 Daniel Im (USA), Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Justin Walters (Rsa)
13:50 Connor Syme, Adam Bland (Aus), Callum Shinkwin
14:00 Clément Sordet (Fra), Sam Brazel (Aus), Colm Moriarty
14:10
Rak hyun Cho (Kor), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Haydn Porteous (Rsa)
14:20 Chase Koepka (USA), Matthias Schwab (Aut), Julien Guerrier (Fra)
14:30 Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Aaron Rai

FRIDAY
1ST TEE
MORNING
07:30
Daniel Brooks, Sébastien Gros (Fra), Cormac Sharvin
07:40
Oliver Farr, Jeff Winther (Den), Neil O’Briain
07:50
Richard Bland, Andrew Dodt (Aus), Joakim Lagergren (Swe)
08:00 Andres Romero (Arg), Grégory Bourdy (Fra), Jeunghun Wang (Kor)
08:10 Romain Wattel (Fra), Lasse Jensen (Den), Chris Paisley
08:20 Matthew Nixon, Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Nacho Elvira (Esp)
08:30 Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Bradley Dredge, Matteo Manassero (Ita)
08:40 Daniel Im (USA), Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Justin Walters (Rsa)
08:50 Connor Syme, Adam Bland (Aus), Callum Shinkwin
09:00 Clément Sordet (Fra), Sam Brazel (Aus), Colm Moriarty
09:10
Rak hyun Cho (Kor), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Haydn Porteous (Rsa)
09:20 Chase Koepka (USA), Matthias Schwab (Aut), Julien Guerrier (Fra)
09:30 Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Aaron Rai

AFTERNOON
12:30
Ryan Evans, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Marcus Kinhult (Swe)
12:40 Scott Jamieson, Brett Rumford (Aus), Matthew Southgate
12:50 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Jorge Campillo (Esp)
13:00 Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Adrian Otaegui (Esp)
13:10 Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Andy Sullivan
13:20 Graeme McDowell, Jon Rahm (Esp), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp)
13:30 Pádraig Harrington, Chris Wood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
13:40 Jamie Donaldson, Eddie Pepperell, Lucas Bjerregaard (Den)
13:50 Søren Kjeldsen (Den), Jordan Smith, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
14:00 Carlos Pigem (Esp), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Jinho Choi (Kor)
14:10 Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Alvaro Quiros (Esp)
14:20 Bradley Neil, Cian McNamara, Simon Thornton
14:30
Gavin Green (Mas), David Lipsky (USA), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra)

10TH TEE
MORNING
07:30
Marcel Siem (Ger), Paul Waring, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
07:40 Pablo Larrazábal (Esp), Thomas Detry (Bel), Lee Slattery
07:50 Austin Connelly (Can), Dean Burmester (RSA), Gavin Moynihan
08:00
Peter Uihlein (USA), Julian Suri (USA), Haotong Li (Chn)
08:10 Paul Dunne, Alexander Levy (Fra), Matt Wallace
08:20 Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thorbjørn Olesen (Den), Rory McIlroy
08:30
Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood, Thomas Pieters (Bel)
08:40 Robert Karlsson (Swe), Russell Knox, Alexander Björk (Swe)
08:50 Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjørn (Den), Danny Willett
09:00 David Howell, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Paul McGinley
09:10
SSP Chawrasia (Ind), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (Esp), George Coetzee (Rsa)
09:20 Scott Fernandez (Esp), Richie Ramsay, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn)
09:30 Zander Lombard (Rsa), Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Raphaël Jacquelin (Fra)

AFTERNOON
12:30
Mark Foster, Pedro Oriol (Esp), Ashun Wu (Chn)
12:40 David Drysdale, Jens Dantorp (Swe), James Morrison
12:50 Chris Hanson, Grégory Havret (Fra), Henric Sturehed (Swe)
13:00 Adrien Saddier (Fra), Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Ashley Chesters 13:10 Matthew Baldwin, Andrea Pavan (Ita), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
13:20 Laurie Canter, David Horsey, Robert Rock
13:30 Stephen Gallacher, Jason Scrivener (Aus), Oliver Fisher
13:40 Marcus Fraser (Aus), Steven Brown, Nino Bertasio (Ita)
13:50 Peter Hanson (Swe), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Scott Hend (Aus)
14:00 Soomin Lee (Kor), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa)
14:10 Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Sam Horsfield, Wade Ormsby (Aus)
14:20 Nico Geyger (Chi), Renato Paratore (Ita), Charlie Ford (Eng)
14:30 Ruaidhrí McGee, Jason Norris (Aus), Marc Warren

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