x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Golf: When it rains Rory McIlroy looks to pour it on

The Ulsterman has hopes that the additional tournaments he has played with windy and rainy conditions has better prepared him for the British Open.

Rory McIlroy is hoping that the tournaments he has played that featured blustery conditions and rain have helped prepare him better for the British Open.
Rory McIlroy is hoping that the tournaments he has played that featured blustery conditions and rain have helped prepare him better for the British Open.

Rory McIlroy will be looking to eat his own words when he tees off in the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes next Thursday.

It was a year ago that he moodily stomped off after a final round of 73 at Royal St George's, saying that links golf - especially in British weather - were not to his liking.

"My game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don't enjoy playing in, really. That's the bottom line," he said at the time. "I'd rather play when it's 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind. I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather. It's not my sort of golf.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to America, playing in Akron, and obviously the PGA and the Irish Open is a big one for us, as well. It's a week that I sort of enjoy."

McIlroy's comments took a lot of people by surprise. But the young star was struggling to master the art of curbing his attacking instincts when the wind is blowing and the rain is falling.

He has high hopes that he has improved enough in those areas to avoid a repeat of last year. At the Irish Open, armed with a new driver, he began his preparations for this year's British Open in suitably wet weather conditions.

It would, he said, be good experience for Lytham.

"I want to try to become a better wind player and better bad weather player, and the only way to do that is by playing in it," he said.

"Definitely in the past, if things haven't gone my way, the fight goes out of me pretty quickly, and that's something I'm working on and something that I'm trying to get better at."

After the disappointment at Royal St George's, he promptly bounced back to top form with a string of top 10 finishes and had another title win in Hong Kong en route to becoming the second youngest-ever world No 1, behind only Tiger Woods, in March.

Since then, though, his form has oddly deserted him with a run of missed cuts.

He failed to make it through to the weekend when defending his US Open championship in San Francisco last month.

Some have said that the celebrity status that has come McIlroy's way since his runaway win in the US Open last year might have gone to his head.

The young player from Holywood, Northern Ireland in quick succession has given swing tips to President Barack Obama during a state banquet at the White House, met the Queen at Newbury races, played tennis with Maria Sharapova at a Madison Square Garden exhibition and thrown out the opening pitch at a San Francisco Giants baseball game. He features regularly in the pages of the top gossip magazines through his romance with former tennis world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Also in McIlroy's favour next week is the fact that he knows Royal Lytham reasonably well, having played there regularly as an amateur.

"Lytham is a course I like," he said. "You have to hit good shots around there, and it really punishes you; the fairway bunkers are so punishing. If you hit it in, there's no chance of getting to the greens. It's a great course and I'm looking forward to it being on the rota, and I think a lot of guys are."

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