Rory McIlroy is relishing the possibility of arriving at Royal Portrush for next year’s Open with the Claret Jug back in his possession.
The 2014 Open champion, searching for his first major victory since that year, gets his Carnoustie campaign underway at 12.53pm today, but insisted he feels under no pressure to cement his legacy by adding to the four he has already secured.
“You know, I think at this point I’m not trying to cement anything,” McIlroy, 29, said yesterday during his pre-tournament media conference.
“Obviously, I’ve had a decent career up until this point and I’ve got a lot of time left to add to the major tally or just tournaments won or whatever it is. It’s hard to win any week on Tour, let alone the four big ones that we get a year.
“Look, I was on a nice run there from 2011 to 2014. I haven’t won one since, but I’m trying. I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened. You know, I’ll give it a good go this week and if I were to head to Portrush with a Claret Jug in my possession, I’d obviously be very happy and be very proud to be the defending champion at a golf course that I know very well and playing in front of home fans.
The world number eight returned to a topic he raised a fortnight ago ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin, as he reflected on his Open debut at Carnoustie in 2007 as an 18-year-old, winning the Silver Medal as low amateur.
“I’ve alluded to the fact that I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here. It was my first Open Championship. I mean, I was just trying to soak everything in, and I was just so grateful to be here, and I think that’s a big part of, you know, if you’re happy in what you’re doing and you’re just happy to be here, I feel like a golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100% be myself and express myself.
“I think sometimes with, you know, the pressure that’s maybe put on the top guys to perform at such a high level every week, that starts to weigh on you a little bit, but yeah, like I look back at those pictures, and the more I can be like that kid, the better.”
McIlroy suggested the hot streak he enjoyed when winning his first four majors, the US Open, two PGA Championships and The Open, between 2011 and 2014 was exceptional, rather than a precursor to more successes in the big four.
“I’ve always said that my performances in the majors at that point, that wasn’t the norm. That wasn’t my normal level. That was above my normal level, and then you sort of go back down, and then you build yourself back up again, but everything finds its balance, and even the 14 that Tiger [Woods] won, that was him at the peak of his powers, and that was him at his 100% best.
“As long as there’s points during the year where you can maybe get yourself to that level, then that’s great. Yeah, you look at Jordan [Spieth] has had a nice little run; he’s won three in three years. I had a nice one; I won four in four.
“That said, if you continue to do stuff like that, you’re going to be one of the greatest of all time, but that’s very hard. There’s only really been one guy that’s done it for like a 10-year period where he’s won that many, and that was Tiger. What he did, it was 11 years, and he won 14 major championships. I mean, that is pretty ridiculous in anyone’s book. 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 feel like, if you put yourself in position enough times, you’ll hopefully find a way to get it done. I found a way to get it done four times, and hopefully I find a way to get it done a few more times before I’m finished.”