Rory McIlroy arrives at Royal Liverpool today for this week’s Open Championship with a flea in his ear from north of Hadrian’s Wall following his less than complimentary remarks about a regular Scottish Open venue.
Two-time Major champion McIlroy, 25, claimed a top-14 finish on Sunday at Royal Aberdeen, having skipped previous Scottish Opens at Castle Stuart Golf Links the previous three years, explaining last week the Inverness course “didn’t really feel like it provided a true links test” required to prepare for the following week’s British Open.
That raised the hackles of CastleStuart bosses, who were at Royal Aberdeen on Sunday as the European Tour announced the Scottish Open would be returning to their course in 2016.
Castle Stuart general manager Stuart McColm accused McIlroy of not knowing what he was talking about, telling the Scottish Daily Record: “Thedisappointment for me is Rory has never been here, so I don’t know how he can say something about a course he has never seen.
“Why doesn’t he come up and play it before he makes up his mind, that would be my suggestion.”
McIlroy has plenty of time to make his mind up about Castle Stuart, but he travelled south from Scotland in good spirits following the challenge Royal Aberdeen offered ahead of playing Hoylake competitively for the first time since the 2003 British Boys’ Championship, his only experience of Royal Liverpool since having been a couple of practice rounds here at the beginning of last week.
“It’s been fantastic,” McIlroy said following his seven under par finish in Scotland. “To play some links golf on a real, true links test has been fantastic. I’m definitely glad I came and even though it’s not the result I wanted, it’s been a great exercise in terms of preparation for next week.
“[Hoylake], it’s very fair. As long as you avoid the bunkers off the tee, the greens are quite flat.”
In even better spirits heading into the 143rd Open is Shane Lowry, the leading Irishman at Royal Aberdeen following a tie for fourth place that served as excellent preparation for this week’s Major.
The Offaly golfer’s showing in Scotland, following his runner-up finish behind McIlroy in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in late May, has seen him jump to 17th in the Race to Dubai standings — with tournament prize earnings so far this year of €754,411 — and to a year-high world ranking of 68th.
“Brilliant, this golf course [Royal Aberdeen], it’s one of the best links courses I’ve played and it’s great preparation,” Lowry said. “You’ve got to think your way around the place, which is what Royal Liverpool is going to be like.”
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