HOYLAKE - Rory McIlroy believes the time is ripe for him this week at Royal Liverpool to finally play his best golf for the full four rounds at the British Open after six years of frustration. The 25-year-old Ulsterman has two major wins already under his belt - at the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship - but success at the two most vaunted majors - the Masters and the British Open - have remained elusive.
In the latter he only has a tied for third to his credit at St Andrews in 2010 and the rest of his performances are way below his own and his many fans expectations, something McIlroy is fully aware of. "The Open Championship is a tournament that's very important to me. And my record in it hasn't been as good as I'd like. I'd love to improve on that," he said at Hoylake on Tuesday just before setting off to play 18 holes of practice.
"It would be very special. I remember growing up watching The Open on TV and watching (Nick) Faldo win. Watching even like Darren (Clarke) having a chance at Troon, I guess. Watching a lot of the Opens growing up, and even going to a couple of them to watch when I was a kid, it's special. It's the only one played outside of the States, as well. And it's played on links. It's the oldest and probably has the richest history of all of them.
"It would be great to put the name on the Claret Jug one day. If I was to win my third Major here, it would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam, as well. Not many golfers have done that, either. So it would be special. It would be very important. Hopefully by the time I hang up my boots, I'd love to be able to get my name on that trophy."
Coming in to Hoylake, the signs are all at green for McIlroy who has returned to near top form this year after a poor 2013 and that despite his sudden marriage pullout with Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. He won the prestigious British PGA Championship at Wentworth, the week after he split with Wozniacki, and on a course he admits he does not feel comfortable on.
And last week in the Scottish Open on the links at Royal Aberdeen, he played well for three rounds, including a course record of 64 in the first round before a second round of 78 derailed his title hopes. It is a annoying habit the Irishman has gotten into - starting well and then struggling to keep up the Friday - a problem he is aware of and determined to set right.
"That's one that I'd like to try to stop this week," he said. "I think it is more I just got it into my head. And I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday. I think I just got into my head. It's something that I need to go out and pretend like it's a Thursday again. Just play. Just play and play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way. So hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores." McIlroy, currently ranked eighth in the world, will tee off on Thursday in a young guns trio alongside Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Jordan Spieth of the United States.