He didn’t mention Dr Bob Rotella, but Rory McIlroy emphasised nothing but the positives.
e has little reason to relish his return to Sandwich, where he got blown away in 2011, but far from sounding fearful ahead of his 26th attempt to add to his Major haul, the world No 11 was a paradigm of affirmative psychology.
Whether it be the notoriously quirky course, his missed cut in the Scottish Open, his swing changes, his near-miss in the US Open, or his first-round disaster at Royal Portrush, nothing is a problem.
“If you’re unflappable, you’re unstoppable,” Darren Clarke said of the advice Rotella gave him ahead of his memorable 2011 Open win.
Clarke believes patience and experience will be a huge factor this week, and at the grand old age of 32, McIlroy is a far more mature golfer than the 22-year-old who was blown off course a decade ago.
“Over the years, I’ve just become more and more comfortable with this style of golf, and I think more than anything else, there’s a lot more variables in the Open Championship and on links courses,” said the Holywood star who followed his win at Hoylake by finishing fifth, fourth and second in successive Opens before missing the cut at home two years ago.
“Once you learn that you can’t control those variables, then you just have to go out and accept whatever is given to you. I think as I’ve gotten a little more experience and matured, I’ve been able to play this championship a little bit better, and hopefully, I can continue that record this week.”
He reckons the lush links will be “absolutely perfect” by the time the weekend rolls around, and as for the missed cut in Scotland, he turned that into a positive too.
“You can always get back on the horse,” said a man who has won three times after missed cuts. “You never want to miss a cut, but as missed cuts go, this wasn’t necessarily a bad one.
“It would have been great to stay and play an extra couple days in Scotland, but to be down here and get a few holes in on Saturday, play a full round on Sunday, I felt like I got a bit of a head start on the rest of the field, which feels good.”
His swing? “I feel good… I feel like I figured something out on Sunday here, which has been really good.”
As for the US Open, where he had a share of the lead with nine to play but ended up seventh, he said: “If I’m tied for the lead with nine holes to go on Sunday, I’d obviously take it and take my chances, but I still feel like I can play better than that.”
World No 2 Jon Rahm is the title favourite, and he too has learned to turn a negative into a positive.
“I was born with a club foot on my right leg,” he revealed, explaining that his right leg is a centimetre and a half shorter than his left, leading to reduced stability in his right ankle and a shorter swing.
“My right leg up to the ankle was straight, my foot was 90 degrees turned inside and basically upside down,” he revealed. “So when I was born, they basically relocated it, pretty much broke every bone in, the ankle and I was casted within 20 minutes of being born from the knee down. I think every week I had to go back to the hospital to get re-casted.”
Like McIlroy, he makes the best of what he has.
“Don’t try to copy me,” he said. “Don’t try to copy any swing out there. Just swing your swing.”
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