“One better than Tiger and hopefully I can build on it,” McIlroy said. Subsequent rounds of 76, 73 and 72 meant McIlroy finished in a tie for 42nd place and won the Silver Medal as leading amateur.
Royal Birkdale: Failed to qualify.
Turnberry: Already in the top 50 in the world in his second full season as a professional, McIlroy arrived at Turnberry with high expectations but an opening 69 was as good as it got. Rounds of 74, 74 and 71 left him in a tie for 47th place and failed to justify his position as one of the pre-tournament favourites behind Woods. “I still feel it is too early for me to win a Major,” McIlroy admitted. “I have a lot of improving to do and maybe in a couple of years’ time I can talk about it.”
St Andrews: McIlroy looked to be ahead of schedule when he equalled the lowest round in Major championship history with a stunning 63 on the Old Course. However, his chances were blown away in atrocious conditions on Friday: play was suspended due to 40mph winds causing balls to move on the greens. He finished with a round of 80. “I actually did well to par the last three holes if I’m totally honest, it could have been an 82 or an 83,” McIlroy said. Subsequent rounds of 69 and 68 meant he rallied to finish third, eight shots behind winner Louis Oosthuizen.
Royal St George’s: Arriving in Sandwich a month after winning the US Open by eight shots, McIlroy departed in disgust after struggling to a share of 25th. “I’m not a fan of tournaments where the outcome is predicted so much by the weather,” he complained. “I’m looking forward to getting back to playing in America where it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind. There’s no point changing my swing for one week a year. I’ll just have to wait for a year when the weather is better.” Compatriot Darren Clarke shrugged off the conditions to lift the Claret Jug.
Royal Lytham: An opening 67: despite a double bogey on the 15th when his drive hit a spectator on the head and flew out of bounds. Left McIlroy just three off the lead, but he then had a 41-hole stretch containing only one birdie and eventually finished a lowly joint 60th on eight over par. “I think the thing for me is to stay patient,” McIlroy said. “If it doesn’t happen over the next couple of weeks, no big deal. It’s a 20-year career, so I’m not going to get too wound up just over a few weeks.”
Muirfield: If McIlroy thought Lytham was bad, then Muirfield was a real nightmare. Struggling with his new clubs and having walked off the course earlier in the season saying he was “in a bad place mentally”, McIlroy missed the cut for the first time in the Open and labelled his own play as “brain dead” after an opening 79. “Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious,” he added. “I’m trying to focus and trying to concentrate but I can’t really fathom it at the minute and it’s hard to stand up here and tell you guys what’s really wrong.”
Royal Liverpool: Three years after saying he would not change his swing for one week a year, McIlroy travelled to Hoylake having practised hard on the type of shots he would need to conquer the Wirral links. He put that to good use with an opening 66 and led from start to finish, making the most of a favourable draw to open up a six-shot lead after 54 holes. Sergio Garcia reduced that lead to just two shots on four occasions but McIlroy kept his cool. “I’m immensely proud of myself. To sit here at 25 years of age and be three-quarters of the way to the career grand slam, I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly,” he said.