McIlroy embracing Cowen’s tough love as Open prep ramps up in Scotland

John Craven

Pete Cowen and Rory McIlroy at work in Scotland (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ahead of his opening round at the Scottish Open, Rory McIlroy joked that if you were to ask Pete Cowen about how the pair have been working together, “he would probably tell you that I’m sh*te!”, but far from being upset with such brutal honesty, McIlroy is relishing the fact Cowen refuses to mince his words as they ramp up preparations ahead of next week’s Open Championship.

The Holywood star was speaking ahead of this week’s rather damp assignment at a wet Renaissance Club where McIlroy has been filmed hard at work on the range with Cowen. Asked how the relationship was going, and how Cowen would describe it if approached on the subject, McIlroy said:


“He would probably tell you that I’m sh*te! I think that’s the great thing about Pete is he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’ll tell me when it’s not great so that when he does give me a compliment, I know that it’s real. It’s been great. It’s probably stuff I’ve worked on before but said in a slightly different way, slightly different thoughts.

“Good thing about Pete is he’s been doing it such a long time and with so many great players, is he knows what works and he knows what doesn’t. I’ve really enjoyed it. I really have. I’ve enjoyed learning from him. He’s got such a great knowledge about not just the golf swing but the game of golf in general, and yeah, it’s been a good few months.”

Since working with his new swing coach, McIlroy entered the winner’s circle after an 18-month absence earlier this year at Quail Hollow but it was getting into contention at last month’s US Open at Torrey Pines before a tied-seventh finish that was the most significant sign of progress for McIlroy. With the final men’s Major of the year set for Royal St. George’s next week, the 32-year old was asked what milestone he was eyeing next…

More of the same,” McIlroy said. “I mean, all anyone asks of themselves is to give themselves a chance on Sunday. That’s it. So the only way you can win is to give yourself a chance, and I gave myself a chance; I was right there on Sunday. Made my best swing of the week probably on the 11th hole and ended up making bogey from it with a bad three-putt.

“It’s getting there. I think, as well, the thing about Majors, you just have to hang around. You don’t have to do anything spectacular. You can sort of par the course to death, pick off a few birdies here and there. It’s a different style of golf than we’re probably used to playing week-in, week-out, and I like that. I like that challenge. I like the fact that at the grand old age of 32, it’s probably more of a mental challenge than a physical one because I feel like I can use my experience to hang in there.”

Before his thoughts drift to Major action, however, McIlroy has the small matter of an $8million Rolex Event to size up in Scotland and although it was a last minute decision to tee up in North Berwick this week, McIlroy maintained it wasn’t one that was forced upon him.

“I wouldn’t say it was forced upon me,” he said. “It was like, I wanted to play. I made the decision. I’m not here against my will. But just with being over here, it just made sense to play. It made sense to play rather than go down to London for a week and sort of practise down there. I guess I could have got to Wembley tonight and got my Danish top on!”

Instead McIlroy will tee-up at 1pm alongside Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. Padraig Harrington (8.40), Jonathan Caldwell (9.20), Cormac Sharvin (2.10pm) and Graeme McDowell – currently even after one hole – complete the Irish line-up.

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