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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Rory McIlroy: Winning majors at Tiger Woods-like pace unrealistic

Northern Irishman, who last won a major in 2014, says 'there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff'

Rory McIlroy hopes coming back to the Scottish links can help him reproduce the golf he produced when he was starting out. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Rory McIlroy hopes coming back to the Scottish links can help him reproduce the golf he produced when he was starting out. Glyn Kirk / AFP

Rory McIlroy has called it unrealistic to expect him to continue winning majors at the same rate as early in his career, but it is not for the want of trying that he has been treading water the past few years.

McIlroy won four majors in his early twenties in three years between 2011 and 2014, but will tee off in the British Open at Carnoustie today trying to end a 14-major drought.

“My performances in the majors at that point wasn’t my normal level,” the Northern Irishman said yesterday. “That was above my normal level and then you go back down, and then you build yourself back up again.

“There are going to be times when you struggle with this and with that.

“What [Tiger Woods] did – it was 11 years and he won 14 major championships – I mean that’s is pretty ridiculous in anyone’s book.

“I’m certainly not expecting to go on that sort of a tear but as long as I give myself chances ... hopefully, you’ll find a way to get it done.”

McIlroy, 29, comes into the British Open with questions over whether he has lost his old magic after being overshadowed recently by a bunch of American players younger than himself.

Tiger Woods' success is near impossible to emulate, as young golfers are finding out. Paul Childs / Reuters
Tiger Woods' success is near impossible to emulate, as young golfers are finding out. Paul Childs / Reuters

A poor finish at the US Masters in April, when he started the final round in second place but was never a factor after failing to make a short putt at the second hole, was followed by a missed cut at the US Open.

McIlroy points out that winning is tough at any time, though he did not find it too demanding when he blew away the field for his first major win, by eight strokes, at the 2011 US Open.

“I’m trying my best every time I tee it up,” he said.

McIlroy recently read a book that offers advice on being disciplined and paring life down to the bare essentials, focusing on a few important things, rather than spreading oneself too thin.

“I try to see the bigger picture and try to have some perspective in my life,” he said.

“While I do have this career [though], I’m trying to make the most of it. Golfers are touchy at the best of times so I think it just depends what day you get them on.”

McIlroy said returning to playing the carefree golf of the start of his career may be the answer to adding a fifth major to his tally.

McIlroy began this season well but has had a series of mixed results since fading in the final round of the US Masters, when he was in the final pairing with eventual champion Patrick Reed.

However, he hopes coming back to the Scottish links can help him reproduce the golf he produced when he was starting out, as he looks to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday.

“I’ve alluded to the fact that I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” McIlroy said.

“I just think, as you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life. I think it’s only natural.”

McIlroy says the difference between the hardened professional and the young buck really struck home when he practised with fiery young Spaniard Jon Rahm this week.

“It’s more of playing with the freedom and, you know, almost like a – I don’t want to say naive, but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff,” he said.

“I think that I remember back to when we last played the [British] Open here, and, again, look, I was just happy to be here.

“I was bouncing down the fairways, didn’t care if I shot 82 or 62. I was just happy to be here.

“The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

Rory McIlroy says the difference between the hardened professional and the young buck struck home when he practised with Jon Rahm this week. Gerry Penny / EPA
Rory McIlroy says the difference between the hardened professional and the young buck struck home when he practised with Jon Rahm this week. Gerry Penny / EPA

'Got a lot of time left'

One of the abiding memories of the 2007 British Open, aside from McIlroy indicating he would go on to greater things, was him playing with Padraig Harrington’s son Paddy while the Irishman was winning a play-off with Sergio Garcia.

“I think I saw Paddy today walking with Padraig,” he said. “He’s massive now.”

“Obviously, I don’t have any kids yet, but hopefully there’s a young amateur this week that’s waiting behind the 18th green on me, and I’m the one that’s coming up there and trying to win the tournament.”

McIlroy, though, does not believe it is time to talk about him needing a major in the near future to assure his legacy.

“You know, I think at this point I’m not trying to cement anything,” he said as he looks to claim a first major since bagging both the British Open and the USPGA four years ago.

“Obviously, I’ve had a decent career up until this point, and I’ve got a lot of time left to add to my major tally or just tournaments won or whatever it is.

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Read more:

First round: Groups and tee times (UAE) for the 2018 British Open

Can Rickie Fowler end his wait? Five contenders for the 2018 British Open

Tiger Woods says Carnoustie conditions may offer best chance for major No 15

Tiger Woods ready for Carnoustie challenge ahead of British Open return

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“It’s hard to win any week on tour, let alone the four big ones that we get a year. Look, I was on a nice run there from 2011 to 2014. I haven’t won one since, but I’m trying.”

McIlroy has an excellent record at the British Open of late, with his last three appearances seeing him win and then finish fifth and fourth – he missed the 2015 Open due to injury.

And he says that, win or lose, he is in a more settled state nowadays.

“If you put things in perspective and you have other things in your life, I think that’s where the balance comes from.

“As long as you return to your friends or your family who just love you for you and don’t care if you’ve won a Claret Jug or not, that’s what life’s about, and that’s the important thing. It’s having good people around you.

“You need people around you to knock you down a peg or two.”