Rory McIlroy: ‘I’m like a broken record but my best is close’

Four-time major winner knows he must find form quickly before British Open and USPGA

Rory McIlroy is wise enough to realise bullish chat only outweighs results for so long. With just a week to go until the British Open, the Northern Irishman has arrived at the Scottish Open determined to produce a showing that will endorse his Birkdale claims.

The former world No1 is without a victory in 2017, a matter due largely to the injury problem that has disrupted his schedule. When an equipment change and his wedding are factored in, there is little wonder the four-times major champion uses “transitional” to describe recent months. Nonetheless, McIlroy’s demeanour and much of his golf suggest an upturn in fortunes may be imminent. Now for the hard part: proving it.

“It’s close,” said McIlroy at Dundonald Links on Wednesday. “It’s hard to sit up here and stand in front of a camera every single time and say to you guys: ‘It’s close,’ because I sound a bit like a broken record after a few weeks. But really, it’s not far away.

“I’m positive about it. I’m excited about my game. I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things. It’s just putting it all together, not just for one day but for four days; and not just for four days, to do it week in and week out.


“Look, I’ve got a busy summer coming up. I’m potentially playing seven weeks out of eight or seven weeks out of nine. I’ve got a busy stretch coming up and I’m excited to play. I might be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, but I know that it’s coming around. But I’m realistic that I need to see it happen sooner, rather than later.”

The world No4, who missed the cut at last week’s Irish Open, can draw upon history. After his last Scottish Open appearance, in 2014, he won the Open at Royal Liverpool. The future also offers positive vibes, with the US PGA Championship being held at Quail Hollow, where McIlroy has excelled in the past.

“I think it’s fair to say I’m trying to stay patient but it’s proving difficult,” he added. “It always has been for me. Because you know, look, I feel like I am good enough to win these tournaments, and I’ve shown that before. And as I keep saying it, I don’t feel like my game is that far away. So to stay patient when you feel like that is sometimes quite difficult.

“I felt like the 2016 season didn’t really go the way I wanted. I missed the cut at the US Open and I missed the cut at the US PGA but I won two FedEx Cup tournaments at the end of the year and I won the FedEx Cup. There is still plenty of time to salvage the season. But I’d rather see that happen sooner, rather than later.”

Putting has been a problem for McIlroy this season. Ninety minutes spent alone on the practice green here on Monday night was pertinent as he looks to streamline his thoughts. “It was just to try and figure out a couple things on my own and try to take ownership of what I’m really working on,” he explained. “I worked a lot on routine. I feel like I’ve become quite bogged down in technical thoughts a little bit. So I need to focus more on my routine and how I approach a putt.”

McIlroy will partner Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler during rounds one and two in Ayrshire. Stenson is only five miles away from the scene of his greatest career triumph – the Swede claimed the Open in stunning fashion at Royal Troon last summer. But he, like McIlroy, has had a low key 2017 thus far.

“It’s great to be back,” said Stenson. “Of course all the memories keep coming back to you. It’s kind of like before and after having kids. When you have kids, your life changes and you can’t believe what you did with all the time you had before you had children.

“It’s a little bit the same. I don’t know what I did with my time before I had the Claret Jug in my possession. I kind of treat it like my baby, as well. So there are a lot of similarities in that sense. It’s been a busy year but I don’t want to sit here and complain about it. That’s certainly not the way we look at it.

“It’s been a challenge at times. I’ve been pretty good at saying no, but you’ve still got to do a lot of things, and I’m sure that impacts your focus on your game to a degree. For the year that you are the defending champion, then every week you show up at a tournament it’s new, it’s fresh, they haven’t seen you since you won so it’s all the pictures and all the autographs and all the interviews.”

(Guardian service)