Rory McIlroy’s British Open Championship hopes — and his flagging season — have received a timely boost with the news that he’s found a new Nike driver that he says could be “the one”.
Speaking at fast and fiery Muirfield, where he played practice rounds last Monday and Tuesday before heading out for another 18 holes yesterday, the world No 2 said: “I went over to London after the Irish Open, tried a few drivers with different settings and as soon I hit it I said, ‘This is the one.’ It feels great.”
The 24-year old’s multi-million dollar move to Nike Golf in January meant saying goodbye to the biggest weapon in his armoury and the key to his amazing 2012 success.
As a result, he’s struggled hugely off the tee this year, freely admitting his lack of confidence in his new Nike Covert driver has been at the root of his 2013 slump.
After finding a crack in the driver he used during his closing six-over-par 76 in the US Open at Merion, he had little luck with a new model in the Irish Open, where he missed the cut.
He immediately started testing new drivers at Carton House and reckons he finally found the perfect club. But whether it helps him at a rock-hard Muirfield, where few drivers are needed in the current conditions, remains to be seen.
He shot a four over 75 playing just one ball in practice yesterday as Tiger Woods jetted in, declared his elbow injury to be “fine” and then hit only irons and three woods off the tee in a nine-hole practice round on a course burnt golden brown by the recent heatwave.
“It’s going to be a great test,” McIlroy said.
“It’s fast and firm and there was a decent wind today.
“I hit one ball because I wanted to try to get myself in the competitive mode. The thing is, if you hit it in the rough here, you’re chipping out.
“I played okay, but dropped five shots in three holes. But four-over is not the worse score around here.
“I really like this course and feel I can play well around here.”
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after beating South African Branden Grace on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at Castle Stuart.
The pair had finished tied on 17 under par after Mickelson three-putted the 18th for a bogey six, charging his birdie putt four feet past the hole and missing the return.
But the world number eight made amends when he returned to the 18th in the play-off, pitching to within inches of the hole for a birdie that Grace could not match.
“This is really cool,” said Mickelson, who claimed his first individual victory in Britain just four days before the start of the Open Championship at Muirfield.
“I have been coming here for some time and had some opportunities and I almost let it slip away today.
“To come out on top was terrific.
“I was so mad at myself for mentally losing my focus that I came out on that 18th pretty focused to make a four.”
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