How Rory McIlroy Overcame Freaky Fridays To Win 2014 Open At Royal Liverpool

We recall how Rory McIlroy collected his second Major and his first Open win in a highly memorable win at Hoylake

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy went into Royal Liverpool as the World No. 8 and with an Open record that read 47-3-25-60-MC. He had two Majors to his name, the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA, but he failed to post a win on either of the main tours in 2013 after signing with Nike at the start of the year.

He would end 2013 with a victory over Adam Scott at the Australian Open and, on New Year’s Eve, he would become engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, a relationship that would end five months later.

On the course he was in the middle of what people were now calling some ‘Freaky Fridays’. At The Masters he had a 77, at Quail Hollow a 76, there would be a 74 at The Players, at Memorial he would open with rounds of 63-78 and, on the eve of The Open, a 78 at Royal Aberdeen. This was now very much a thing and something that he would be asked about throughout the week at Hoylake, particularly after opening with a six-under 66 to lead by one from Matteo Manassero.

"I had a bad Friday afternoon at Augusta, and then just made the cut. And then I started off horrifically at Quail Hollow on Friday afternoon. And then did the same thing at Sawgrass. That's like three tournaments in a row. That's when I was conscious of it. I was 3-over through 9 on Friday at Wentworth, and then I was able to get it back in form. And then Memorial obviously was the biggest one. There's nothing really to it, maybe having higher expectations going out on a Friday because you shot a low round, and just trying to put those expectations aside and just try and take it one hole at a time.”

There would be sit-down chat with Jack Nicklaus in between Muirfield Village and Hoylake and, as still happens today, the Golden Bear offered McIlroy some insights on how to help his game.

“He did mention it. I didn't mention it to him. He mentioned it to me. "How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78?" What we talked about was just holding a round together. And he was never afraid to make a change in the middle of the round, whether to swing or strategy, to get it back on track. We talked a little bit about that but not specifically about my previous struggles on Fridays.”

On the Friday in Liverpool McIlroy would put all those rounds into the shade with an afternoon 66. Alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth the then 25-year-old would move from a one to a four-shot lead over Dustin Johnson. 

“I didn't have that in my head at all. Going out there, I just wanted to play another solid round of golf, stick to my game plan, stick to doing what I do well, which is take advantage of the par 5s, maybe take advantage of some of the other holes that are downwind. That's all I was thinking about. 

"It was nice to go out and shoot a good one so I don't have to be asked about it again until I might shoot a good score at Akron, and then people are asking me on Thursday afternoon. It's understandable. People ask you. My second rounds this year have been terrible. And there isn't really any explanation. But hopefully I put it to bed.”

Rory McIlroy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He would drop his first shot of the week, at the 1st, and he would talk about two trigger words that were helping him to piece together some of his best ever golf. If he did win all would be revealed on the Sunday night.

With the threats of thunder and lightning in the air, the R&A elected to go off two tees early and McIlroy would be partnered by Dustin Johnson and Francesco Molinari. Rickie Fowler would birdie seven of his first 12 holes and would draw level with McIlroy only for the two-time Major winner to put his foot down back nine with a pair of eagles in the last three holes. If the driver had put him in the box seat over the first two days, the putter kept him in it.

“The putter definitely saved me. Even as early as the second hole. And then from the 5th onwards I putted really nicely. I made a big par save on 7. I made another good par save on 9. It was a very good putting round. Sort of momentum putts. Putts that you really need to make just to keep the round going. Some of those par putts were even more important than the birdie putts or the eagle putts.”

The lead was now up to six after a third-round 68, Fowler was next best on -10 with Johnson and Sergio Garcia seven back. The severe storms never materialised and McIlroy had moved with three shots of both the Open and Major scoring record to par which stood at -19.

Back in twoballs McIlroy would play with Fowler while Garcia would make the big early moves. Three birdies in the first five holes put a dent in McIlroy’s advantage and an eagle at the 10th brought the Championship truly alive. McIlroy, for his part, would birdie the 1st but bogey both 6 and 7 and it would be the par saves at the next two holes and the back-to-back birdies at 9 and 10 that would decide the 2014 Open.

Fowler wouldn’t drop a shot all day but his late run, three birdies in the last four holes, would come too late but still be good for a share of second with Garcia. Fowler would shoot all four rounds in the 60s and his worst finish in a Major that year was a fifth place at Augusta. 

Rickie Fowler

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McIlroy would birdie 16 and a brilliant up-and-down at the 71st hole meant that he could (relatively) enjoy the 18th. He would finish the four days on -17 and three quarters of the way to the career Grand Slam. The victory would make McIlroy the first European to win three different Majors and he became only the sixth player to win The Open going wire to wire after 72 holes. Better still, he joined Woods and Nicklaus as the only players under the age of 25 to win three Majors.

Woods, who dominated the 2006 Open here, would finish 69th, his worst finish over 72 holes in any Major and he would be 23 shots back of McIlroy, his largest deficit ever in a Major. 

He would pick up £975,000 for his efforts and his dad, Gerry, would share £100,000 with a friend having placed a bet at odds of 500-1 in 2004 that his son would win The Open within the next 10 years. 

To complete the picture McIlroy’s mum, Rosie, was there to embrace him as he put the win in the books.

“My mom hasn't been at the previous two Major wins. It was just my dad. And it was just great to see her on the back of the 18th there and how much it meant to her. I was trying not to cry at the time because she was bawling her eyes out. The support of my parents has been incredible and the sacrifices that they made for me. But even up to this day they're the two people in this world that I can talk to anything about. I couldn't ask to have two better parents.”

As for those two words they were ‘process’ and ‘spot’.

“With my long shots I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings. I wasn't thinking about the end result, basically. And then spot was for my putting. I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot, roll it over my spot every time. I wasn't thinking about holing it. I wasn't thinking about what it would mean or how many further clear it would get me. I just wanted to roll that ball over that spot. If that went in, then great. If it didn't, then I'd try it the next hole.”

Weeks later McIlroy would turn three into four Majors at the PGA, this time holding off Fowler and Phil Mickelson in the gloom at Valhalla. Now the whispers would begin over how possible it would be to get near Tiger's then-14 Majors.

Nine years later Woods has added to his haul but, incredibly, McIlroy hasn't. Royal Liverpool has been good to McIlroy in the past and much of the watching world will be hoping that it will again do the same as 2014.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.