McIlroy takes a trip down memory lane
It is ten years since Rory McIlroy made his debut in the Open Championship at Carnoustie and it would be fair to say the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year has lived up to his hopes and expectations. Does he want more? Without doubt.
Injury has curtailed his season this year, but the Northern Irishman has arrived at Royal Birkdale this week in good spirits and confident that he is close to rediscovering his best form. “In '07 I didn't think I had a chance to win the tournament. Nowadays I come to The Open with the goal of taking away the Claret Jug,” he said.
At 28, McIlroy has many productive years ahead of him. He recognises that the margins between the top players have narrowed, making it harder for one player to become totally dominant, but he is happy to reflect on a successful decade among the game’s higher echelons.
“If someone had told me (at Carnoustie in 2007), ‘You're going to be a four-time major winner, you’ll have won The Open and you're one leg away from the career Grand Slam, you've played on three winning Ryder Cup teams, you've won the Order of Merit three times in Europe, you've won the FedEx Cup in the States’, I'd be, like, ‘Yeah, I'll take that! That's pretty good.’
“But having that success, you only want to do that more. And you want to emulate that and you want to do it again and again and again. So I definitely haven't lost the hunger that I've always had.”
McIlroy is frustrated that a rib injury has not allowed him to practice as hard as he would have liked. “It's sort of a Catch-22,” he said. “You don't want to hit too many balls and aggravate it too much again, but if you want to compete and … win some of these biggest tournaments in the world, you have to put in the time and put in the practice. I'm managing it and I'm managing it well.”
Surprisingly, perhaps, McIlroy finds himself a relative outsider to lift the Claret Jug this week. He has had fallow periods before, however, and has always come back fighting. “I'm just waiting for that round or that moment or that week where it sort of clicks and I'll be off and running,” the former world No.1 said. “It’s a good time to back me.”
And what advice would he give to a rookie?
“It's the biggest and best golf tournament in the world and there's no better feeling than being announced on the first tee in an Open Championship.
“If you play well, you're walking down the 18th and the grandstands are full and you get a reception going on the 18th green and it's pretty cool when that happens for the first time. So just enjoy it. Relish it. Take in as much as you can, and that will serve you the next time that you play.”