McIlroy needs to avoid the freaky Friday feeling

Rory McIlroy feels as prepared as he ever has going into an Open Championship but it will be how he readies himself mentally for Friday’s second round that will determine whether he lifts the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool on Sunday.

Bad stretches of holes in a round and outright horror shows on a Friday have proved McIlroy’s undoing on too many occasions for his comfort, both this season and in Majors past, be it a second-round 80 at St Andrews in the 2010 Open or a 78 at the same point in this year’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.

The most recent Friday fright came at last week’s Scottish Open, when having set the course record at Royal Aberdeen on day one with an opening 64, McIlroy rolled up 24 hours later and carded a 78 over the same track.

He eventually finished in a share of 14th place but while yesterday — ahead of his latest bid to win a third major title which would complete part three of a career Grand Slam — the Irishman said last week’s links acclimatisation was hugely beneficial, he also admitted that second-round sorrows were becoming a recurring bad dream.

“I’m glad I played up in Scotland last week, definitely,” McIlroy said. “I feel as prepared as I ever have coming into an Open Championship, just because (I’ve played) four competitive rounds on links, and playing in some different conditions up there. “I mean, it was a good week in terms of preparation for this week at the Open. A little disappointed with how I finished.

“I mean, I had three good rounds, and obviously one not-too-good round. But the game feels in good shape. I feel like I got a lot of good links practice last week, which will hopefully help this week.”

As for the developing ‘Oh my God, it’s Friday’ syndrome, McIlroy said it was: “One that I’d like to try to stop this week.

“It’s more I just got it into my head. And I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday.

“I think I just got into my head. It’s something I need to go out and pretend like it’s a Thursday again. It’s more going out and thinking about it and really trying to get off to a solid start instead of just going out and trying — just play.

“Just play and play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way. So hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores.”

McIlroy is nothing if not resilient and has no problem rebounding from bad scores, last weekend following that 78 with weekend rounds of 68-67 but even in his sole victory of this season, May’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the Holywood golfer fell prey to some mid-round heebee-geebees.

“It just seems like I’ve just been caught out this year by a bad stretch of holes every tournament. And I shot three over for the front nine at Wentworth on the Friday but recovered by shooting four under on the back nine, and being able to shoot something under par. So if I can just eliminate that. And I think it’s easier to eliminate some of the bad stuff than it is to try and find some of the good stuff, because the good stuff is in there, obviously, with some of the low scores I’m shooting. I just need to keep it a little tighter when things aren’t 100% on the golf course.”

If McIlroy does manage to eliminate the bad stuff, as he calls it, then surely he will put himself in contention for a third Major this week, and in the one that means so much to him.

“It would be very special,” he said.

“I remember growing up watching The Open on TV and watching (Nick) Faldo win. Watching even like Darren (Clarke) having a chance at Troon, I guess. Watching a lot of the Opens growing up, and even going to a couple of them to watch when I was a kid, it’s special.

“It’s the only one played outside of the States, as well. And it’s played on links. It’s the oldest and probably has the richest history. It would be great to put the name on the Claret Jug one day.

“If I was to win my third Major here, it would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam, as well. Not many golfers have done that, either. So it would be special. It would be very important. Hopefully by the time I hang up my boots, I’d love to be able to get my name on that trophy.”

Rory maintains focus despite Forde crash

By Carl Markham

Rory McIlroy insists he is happy with life and is not letting anything deflect his focus away from golf as he bids to win his first Open Championship.

The Co Down man has had a mixed year on and off the course, with his first victory in 18 months arriving at May’s BMW PGA Championship, days after he called off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

He pledged to plough all his energy into his game and it seems even a car crash involving close acquaintance and rumoured new girlfriend Nadia Forde will not distract him on the eve of the 143rd Open Championship at Hoylake.

The 25-year-old model was taken to hospital as a precaution in the early hours of Sunday morning after reportedly rolling her car six times on the M40 in Warwickshire.

“Obviously if anyone’s in a car crash you’re glad to see that they’re okay,” said McIlroy.

“It was a pretty scary incident but everything’s good.”

McIlroy admits he is in a “better place” than earlier in the year.

“Yeah, I’m just focusing on my golf at the moment and making that the number one priority,” added the 25-year-old.

“Am I in a better place? I’m happy with everything that’s going on. I’ve got a big stretch of tournaments coming up. I’ve got this week and then go back over to the States and World Golf Championship and then the US PGA and all the FedEx Cup play-offs and the Ryder Cup. There’s a lot to keep me busy and just looking forward to that stretch of golf coming up so yeah, I’m happy.”

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