McIlroy looks to channel the teen spirit of last Carnoustie appearance
Rory McIlroy has won four majors, 23 professional tournaments, three Ryder Cups and spent 95 weeks as world No.1 since he last played an Open at Carnoustie.
Yet to lift a second Claret Jug come Sunday, he claims he needs to play like 18-year-old Rory did 11 years ago.
A fresh-faced McIlroy, with his mop of curly hair, bounced down the fairways with the carefree innocence of youth at The 2007 Open and finished tied-42nd on the Angus links – earning the Silver Medal as the low amateur in the process.
His golf game has improved immeasurably since then but the 2014 Champion Golfer is desperate to recapture some of younger McIlroy’s teen spirit, if not his recreate his hairstyle.
“I probably could,” laughed McIlroy, when asked if he could have the same kind of hairstyle now. “I don't want to, though and there’s a few more greys in it these days!
“When I looked in the mirror back then, I didn't think it was as big as it was. Anyways, we live and we learn!
“But I do need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and I’m just happy to be here.
“It was my first Open – I was just trying to soak everything in and I was just so grateful to be here. I think that's a big part of it – if you're happy in what you're doing, you’ll be successful.
“As you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life – it’s only natural. For me, it's more about playing with the freedom and I don't want to say being naive but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff.
“When we last played The Open here, I was bouncing down the fairways and didn't care if I shot 82 or 62 because I was just happy to be here. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I'll play golf.”
Finding a way to get it done
For most golfers, four major victories would represent an outstanding career, yet the fact 29-year-old McIlroy hasn’t won one of golf’s four biggest tournaments since the 2014 PGA Championship feels like something of a drought.
The Northern Irishman is quick to point out that no-one has a God-given right to win a major but he remains confident of adding more and a record of first, fifth and fourth at his last three Opens suggests reasons his rivals should be fearful.
“I won four majors in four years (between 2011 and 2014) but that wasn't my normal level,” he added.
“That was above my normal level, and then you come back down before you build yourself back up again. Everything finds its balance.
“Tiger Woods won 14 majors in 11 years, which is pretty ridiculous, and I'm certainly not expecting to go on that sort of a tear.
“But as long as I give myself chances and I'm in contention most of the time when I'm playing a major, I’m confident I’ll find a way to get it done.
“I found a way to get it done four times, and hopefully I get it done a few more times before I'm finished.
“To already have a Claret Jug is very nice but obviously I want another to add to my collection. It would be nice to win this week at Carnoustie, where I was able to pick up a Silver Medal a few years ago.”
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