The 32-year-old is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Irish Open performance
Rory McIlroy aiming to shake the rust off in time for The Open
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy hopes this week in Scotland will help get his game ready to challenge for The Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
The Northern Irishman recently started working with Pete Cowen having struggled for form in the early part of the year, and it looked like he had turned a corner with victory at the Wells Fargo Championship and a near miss at the US Open.
But, having taken some time off after Torrey Pines, his return to action at the Irish Open didn’t exactly go to plan.
“Yeah, I was pretty rusty last week in Ireland. I didn’t really do any practise the week after the US Open and it sort of showed in my game,” McIlroy said.
“So it’s been nice to link back up with Pete who is here and worked on some stuff the last couple days.
“It’s nice to get four more rounds, and four rounds on somewhat links conditions and sort of seeing the game a little bit that way again – putting off greens and chip-and-runs and that sort of stuff.”
Specifically, McIlroy’s driving has made it difficult to compete. Once his greatest asset, the 32-year-old developed a two-way miss attempting to keep pace with the big-hitting escapades of Bryson DeChambeau.
That, therefore, is the area in which he hopes to see improvements at the Renaissance Club.
He added: “The longer the club gets, the more exaggerated the move is. You can get away with it with the shorter clubs because they are shorter clubs, but once you get a longer club in your hand, that’s where some of the bad habits start to creep in a little bit more.
“That’s something that I’ve worked on over the past couple of days, and it feels better. I definitely drove the ball much better for nine holes [on Tuesday] and then in the Pro-Am, as well, so that was encouraging.
“The great thing about Pete is he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’ll tell me when it’s not great so that when he does give me a compliment, I know that it’s real. It’s been great.
“Pete’s been doing it such a long time and with so many great players, so he knows what works and he knows what doesn’t. I’ve really enjoyed it.
“He’s got such a great knowledge about not just the golf swing but the game of golf in general, and yeah, it’s been a good few months.”
Normally a week he would skip, McIlroy was a late addition to the field in Scotland after the R&A’s strict Covid-19 guidelines were released.
Among other things, players must stay in official tournament ‘bubble’ hotels or rent private accommodation with a maximum of four people, including themselves and their caddie, and are prohibited from going to bars, restaurants, and supermarkets during Open Championship week.
Wives, girlfriends and family members can attend if they’re part of the team of four but must either already be in the UK or have completed the 10-day quarantine.
As a result, the Northern Irishman’s young family have stayed at their home in Florida, giving the four-time major champ free reign to tee it up at the “wonderful venue” that is the Renaissance Club.
And while he’d no doubt love to head to Kent with another victory under his belt, especially one featuring such a star-studded line-up, McIlroy already has an eye on the final major of the year.
“It would have been great to play it fast and firm, but again, it’s just so out of anyone’s control. You can’t control what the weather does, and this is a wonderful week to have The Scottish Open and it’s actually a wonderful venue.
“Everything is so easy. I’m staying in the clubhouse this week and the gym’s right here and the practise facilities.
“It’s great — with one eye towards next week, as well, it’s a great week to spend a week and work on your game and play. It’s getting there.
“I think, as well, the thing about majors, you just have to hang around. You don’t have to do anything spectacular. You can sort of par the course to death, pick off a few birdies here and there.
“At the grand old age of 32, I like the fact that it’s probably more of a mental challenge than a physical one because I feel like I can use my experience to hang in there.”
The last time Royal St George’s hosted The Open, McIlroy was a 22-year-old superstar, fresh off an eight-shot win at the 2011 US Open.
Although he could only muster a T25 finish in Sandwich, he has fond memories of watching his fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke pulling off a surprise victory in golf’s oldest championship.
“I remember grinding my ass off for 13 holes on Saturday morning with my rain jacket on in bad conditions and the weather started to clear up on the 14th tee and I took my rain jacket off and proceeded to hit one out-of-bounds, and that was sort of it for me for the tournament.
“But obviously it was great to see Darren win. I remember I played a practice round with him early Wednesday morning, and at that point it didn’t look like he was anywhere near winning the golf tournament.
“But that’s the great thing about golf. You just never know.”