Rory McIlroy is looking forward to getting back into competition mode at this week’s Genesis Scottish Open after taking a fortnight off as he decompressed from a four-week stretch that saw him come desperately close to ending his nine-year major drought at the U.S. Open at L.A. Country Club.
“I played four weeks in a row,” he explained, “and then having two weeks off where I took at least the first week of that two weeks completely off. I didn’t touch a club for a little bit after that four-week stretch. I think just to get some competitive golf under my belt, get a scorecard in my hand and play.
“It’s not pure links at this place, but it’s linksy enough conditions that at least you’re playing in a bit of breeze and you’re maybe getting some visuals that you would get at a links course.
“So I think just all of that will obviously be good with one eye towards next week, and The Open. But still, it’s a big tournament and I can sort of make points on both sides of the pond looking later down the line at the end of the year for FedExCup and Race to Dubai and all that stuff. I think this week serves a few purposes.”
The Renaissance Club hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for McIlroy, missing the cut in 2021 and finishing tied 34th in 2019, and chose to skip the event in the runup to last year’s Open Championship where he saw a back nine lead disappear as Cameron Smith went on to lift the Claret Jug.
“Last year we had the JP McManus Pro-Am,” McIlroy sad, “so I felt like even though it wasn’t completely competitive and serious, I felt like, I guess easing my way back into competitive golf before The Open at St Andrews.
“So I just felt like this year, coming off the back of a big stretch, having three weeks off going into The Open probably wasn’t going to be the ideal prep.”
With top-eight finishes in six of the last seven majors, the world number three has been knocking on the door and is confident that he can finally end the drought when he returns to Hoylake next week where he won his third major title and only Open Championship to date back in 2014.
“Yeah, I’m as close as I’ve ever been, really,” he said. “My consistency in the performances, especially in the majors over the last couple years is way better than it has been over the previous few years.
“So I’m really pleased at that but at the same time, having had a really good chance at St Andrews; having a really good chance in L.A. a few weeks ago.
“Yeah, I need to keep putting myself in those positions obviously and the more times I go through them whether it be St Andrews or L.A., and just gaining that experience. You know, all of that stuff, even though I’m not getting the wins, it’s going to stand by me for whenever I get myself in position again.”
Despite the heartbreak at last year’s Open Championship and this year’s U.S. equivalent, McIlroy doesn’t think that there is a scar tissue buildup that has come from frequent near misses on the biggest stage.
“I don’t think so,” he mused. “The one nice thing about the U.S. Open a few weeks ago is I had to play golf the week after. I didn’t have to, but it was nice to play the week after at the Travelers because then you’re not really dwelling on it, right. You have to get right back in the saddle and go all over again. There has not been much dwelling on anything.
“I was really happy with my performance. I thought I stuck to my game plan really well. I know my game is in good shape so, I’m excited about that.”
As previously mentioned, though Cameron Smith is the defending champion, McIlroy is the last man to win an Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and, with a week left to go, is the pre-tournament favourite to get his hands on the Claret Jug once again.
“Absolutely,” he responded when asked if it was possible to temper expectations. “I sort of dealt with that at Augusta this year. Felt like my game was in really good shape I didn’t produce what I needed to produce the first two days, and that was disappointing.
“I think I learned a lot from that and just about playing a golf tournament. 72 holes is a long time. A lot can happen. It’s a journey. It’s a journey to get yourself into contention, and to be there on Sunday afternoon, and there’s a lot of golf shots to be hit and a lot of golf to be played.
“Yeah, the worst thing you can do in this game is get ahead of yourself.”