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The 150th Open

Rory McIlroy


Baked fairways, firm greens and a stiff breeze will make St Andrews play tough

It might be 469 years old but Rory McIlroy believes the Old Course is going to test players to the limit at The 150th Open this week, with baked fairways, firm greens and a stiff breeze in the forecast. 

With many greens reachable with a driver, low scores could be on the table when the action begins on Thursday but the 2014 Champion Golfer is adamant many will be caught out by St Andrews' ever-changing personality.

McIlroy had a sly smile on his face at his press conference - he knows only too well how the course can quickly transform after shooting rounds of 63 and 80 on days 1 and 2 in 2010. 

And the 2014 Champion Golfer says it will take a different approach to succeed this week, with players needing to learn less is more off the tee.

“Everyone has seen how hard and fast the fairways are,” he said. 

“The greens are quite receptive and they are quite lush but that will change because of the weather. I have played this course mostly in September or October when it plays differently. It’s about hitting driver and taking your chances from there. 

“This week, you may see people holding back a bit. The pin positions are different this week, so laying back and using the angles a bit more into the green will be important. 

“It is much more of a strategic golf course when it plays like this. I putted it from 60 yards on the second yesterday and I think you will see a lot of that. 

“I think with the condition of the golf course, I think with a little bit of breeze, just like I was alluding to, yeah, you can bomb it around here and hit driver and get it close to the greens, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to make birdies from those positions.  

“I can see it being low enough, like getting into the teens, but I can't see something in the 20-under-par range.  I just think with the way the golf course is playing and how firm and fast it is, it's just going to get super tricky by the end of the week.” 

McIlroy was the defending champion the last time the Old Course played host to The Open but withdrew before the Championship due to injury. 

But he got a feel for the course in Monday’s Celebration of Champions, where he played alongside Tiger Woods, Georgia Hall and Lee Trevino. 

The Northern Irishman has not won a major since 2014’s PGA Championship but has 16 top 10s since, including three so far this year. 

Another this week would mark the first time in his career that he has finished in the top 10 in all four majors in one season. But top 10s don’t cut it for the 33-year-old, who is desperate to get back in the winner’s circle. 

“I hope so,” he said when asked if he thinks he can win. 

“I've only played one Open here before. I got off to a great start and got caught out in wind not too dissimilar to what's out there today. 

“I'm playing well. I'm in good form. My confidence in my game is as high as it's been in quite a while. I can't go in here thinking that this might be my time.  

“I just have to go out and play a really good tournament. I've got to string four good rounds together, and hopefully at the end of the week, that's good enough to win.  

“I'm happy where everything's at, and I just can't get ahead of myself, and just have to make sure that I prepare well the next couple of days and get myself in the right frame of mind for Thursday.” 

McIlroy is one of 18 Champion Golfers in the field this week but much of the attention is only on one – Tiger Woods. 

The three-time winner has certainly done his homework this week, playing 36 holes in a little over 12 hours with Justin Thomas and then captaining a fourball in the Celebration of Champions. 

“I think the way the golf course is and the conditions are, I could see Tiger contending,” he said.  

“It will be a game of chess this week and no one is better at playing chess than Tiger Woods in the last 20 years.” 

McIlroy is no stranger to the Claret Jug himself and admits that special day at Royal Liverpool is imprinted on his mind. 

“It is a moment you dream about,” he said. 

"This was the major championship, it was the first one I ever attended as a kid. Yeah, it just means a little bit more. Yeah, to hear your name and winner of the gold medal, Champion Golfer of the Year, it's what dreams are made of. I still remember that pretty vividly. I'd love to replicate that on Sunday evening."