Rory McIlroy returns to the Open Championship this month in a bid to claim his fifth Major title, and finally put to bed a winless drought in golf’s grandest events which is on the verge of stretching to a full decade.
By the time the tournament’s underway at Royal Liverpool, it will have been 3262 days since the Northern Irishman last won a Major. Since that 2014 triumph at the PGA Championship, there have been 23 different Major winners in the men’s game. Quite unbelievable reading which has left a lot of us scratching our heads as to why.
But the trip to Hoylake in an attempt to win a Claret Jug presents a different opportunity and one that may provide solace to a player desperate to get over the line once more. The last time the venue hosted the Open Championship was also back in 2014. The winner that year? Rory McIlroy, wire to wire.
“I want be to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins Majors regularly,” said McIlroy in the immediate aftermath of his 2014 Open victory. “Getting my third Major is a huge step in the right direction. I just want to think ahead and go forward and try and win as many tournaments and as many Majors as I can, because I feel like there’s a lot more left in me.”
There’s no doubting the last part of that quote; the 34-year-old still does have a lot more left in him, even now nine years later. He came agonisingly close at St Andrews last year, while he also finished runner-up in June’s U.S. Open. In fact, he’s had more top five finishes (17) than missed cuts (11) in the Majors. One would think it’s just a matter of time until he claims glory once more.
“When I do finally win this next major it’s going to be really, really sweet,” stated McIlroy following his second place at Los Angeles Country Club. “I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another Major Championship.”
However, Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman is likely to endure another hard-fought battle at Royal Liverpool if he is to add to his trophy cabinet. He’ll enter the week as one of the favourites, but his name will still be surrounded by a host of other expected winners. Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and even a revitalised Brooks Koepka will be hoping to put a roadblock in Rory’s dream.
But the 15-time DP World Tour winner’s advantage of being a proven champion on the course must give him an edge. He took a huge six shot lead into the final round in 2014, before finishing two clear to win on 17 under par. The conditions were soft that week, and if they’re similar this year, he’ll be licking his lips even more.
“I think Hoylake is a great course to be on The Open rota,” added McIlroy after his Claret Jug triumph. “It’s a good test. Felt very comfortable with the golf course. I felt like my preparation was really good.”
The World No.3 is following a similar preparatory schedule this year by teeing it up at the Genesis Scottish Open the week before, as he did in ‘14. Although he hasn’t had remarkable performances in that event historically, with his best finish being tied for 19th in 2008, the additional competitive golf will benefit him.
And in May, McIlroy was dished up some extra motivation as he witnessed his friend and rival, Koepka, secure his fifth Major title, becoming the 20th player to achieve five or more wins in golf’s grandest events. That surely would have lit the fire inside even more. Now, the Northern Irishman has another chance to join him in this exclusive club with a just one more great week on the links.
“No one wants me to win another Major more than I do,” explained McIlroy. “The desire is obviously there. I’ve been trying and I’ve come close over the past nine years or whatever it is, and I keep coming back. The more I keep putting myself in these positions, sooner or later it’s going to happen for me.”