You’d think after the retreat from East Lothian, the earlier-than-ever arrival at Sandwich, and the struggles of the last few months, Rory McIlroy might be a little downbeat. Not a bit of it.
McIlroy has been inconsistent and often ineffective this season. His swing looked well off in the second round as he missed the cut in the Scottish Open. It hardly looked great preparation for his attempt to win his second Open.
He looked pretty miserable leaving The Renaissance on Friday night. Rory being Rory, however, there’s now a positive spin on it.
‘As missed cuts go, this wasn’t a bad one’
“You never want to miss a cut, as you say, but as missed cuts go, this wasn’t necessarily a bad one,” he argued. “I wasn’t planning on playing the Scottish Open a few weeks ago anyway. It was just to get a couple of competitive rounds in and just learn a little bit more and figure out what I need to do.
“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 everyone.
“I can take it a bit easier the next couple days. Not feel like I’m trying to cram all the preparation in.”
Furthermore, he said, he’d found something to counter the problems in his swing up north.
“I feel like I figured something out on Sunday here,” he said. “Hit the ball great on the range yesterday, and I hit the ball well today on the course.
“I feel good about where I am going into the week.”
‘I don’t think it’s a chance statistic’
And even furthermore, Rory’s record shows a large degree of bounce-backability. He’s rarely more dangerous than when he’s just missed a cut, winning the week after three times in recent times.
“I certainly don’t think it’s a chance statistic,” he said. “You always learn more about your game when you’ve missed a cut or not played as well.
“I’ve always tried to figure out, ‘okay, why did this week not go so well?’ Then you give yourself a couple of thoughts and they’re fresh in your mind going into the next week. That’s why I say in golf there’s always next week. That’s a great thing, because you can right some wrongs pretty quickly.
“I’ve always made it a priority in my career to really try to learn from my mistakes. All the way back to what happened at Augusta in ’11 and going and winning the U.S. Open the next major.”
‘By the weekend it should just be absolutely perfect’
Rory actually quite likes Sandwich in the present, slightly slowed condition.
“Even before the rain yesterday the course was quite lush, quite green,” he said. “We maybe weren’t getting the bounces that we’re accustomed to getting here at St George’s with the bumpy fairways.
“I think the course plays a little better that way, so I was pleasantly surprised. I walked away from the golf course on Saturday and Sunday thinking this is a much better golf course than I remember it.
“As the days go on with a little bit of wind and sunshine, by the weekend it should just be absolutely perfect. It should be playing the way it should play.”