Missing the cut at the Irish and Scottish Opens doesn’t rule McIlroy out of British Open contention
By Phil Rice
Such is Rory McIlroy’s self belief that despite missing out on the final two rounds at both the Irish and Scottish Opens in the past two weeks, he firmly believes that this week at Royal Birkdale in the 146th British Open, he can return to the winner’s circle.
“I’m positive about it,” says the Northern Irishman. “I’m excited about my game. I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things.”
Now ranked fourth in the world, McIlroy believes that all the components of his best golf are in good order.
“It’s just putting it all together, not just for one day but for four days; and not just for four days, to do it week in and week out,” he said.
“I’ve got a busy stretch coming up and I’m excited to play.
“I might be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, but I know that it’s coming around.
“But I’m realistic that I need to see it happen sooner, rather than later. I sound a bit like a broken record after a few weeks. But, really, it’s not far away.”
The last time the Open was played at Birkdale the trophy was won by an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, when he retained his title in 2008.
It is not a course for the bighitters but rather it requires patience and concentration, attributes that Harrington has in abundance.
Padraig returned to form last weekend at the Scottish Open when only a disappointing third round prevented him from pulling off a victory.
He ended up with a fourth place finish despite a 79 in the third round, and he feels his game is in fine fettle for this week’s Open.
He would certainly be a popular winner and he has the belief that he can repeat his victory of nine years ago.
“I’m playing better at the moment than I have since winning my majors and I do like playing Royal Birkdale. It suits my game,” he told me last week.
Shane Lowry is the other Irishman in the field this week, but he has been enduring a frustrating season.
Having won the Firestone WGC event two years ago many believed that Lowry was destined to be a consistent top 10 player in the world rankings, but for a variety of reasons he hasn’t gone on from that high point.
He has the capability to contend for majors as he did at the US Open last year. He needs to score well in round one this week and perhaps his confidence will return.
Royal Birkdale has had a special place in Irish hearts since Jimmy Bruen won the British Amateur title there in 1946.
Can Padraig Harrington repeat his memorable victory of nine years ago, when he brought joy to a nation? Or perhaps McIlroy will return to the winner’s podium and prove that form is temporary, but class is permanent.