Patience means more prizes for Open hopeful Rory McIlroy

McIlroy has won two PGA Tour events this season alone and 21 times worldwide outside of the majors

Patience means more prizes
Rory McIlroy prefers not to focus all his efforts on the majors (Adam Davy/PA)

Rory McIlroy insists he would not swap his consistency for world number one Brooks Koepka’s feast-or-famine approach.

Koepka has won four major titles compared to just two regular PGA Tour tournaments and admits he has a different mental attitude when it comes to the game’s biggest events.

McIlroy has won two PGA Tour events this season alone and 21 times worldwide outside of the majors, but has not won one since 2014 and saw his only realistic chance to end his drought this season fizzle out in the final round of the US Open.

Asked if he would trade peaking in the majors for a season which has produced 11 top-10 finishes in 13 events, McIlroy said: “No, I wouldn’t trade.

Patience means more prizes
Rory McIlroy came up just short at last year’s Open at Carnoustie (Richard Sellers/PA)

“I look at Brooks and you see what he does in these majors and you think, ‘wow, if he produced this sort of stuff every week, it would be very tough to compete’.

“Why that is, I have no idea. But he obviously does put a lot of extra emphasis on the majors and it works for him. When I try to put extra emphasis on tournaments, it almost goes the other way for me. I need to relax and I need to just sort of let it go. That’s how I play my best golf.

“I look at what I’ve done this year and my results, scoring average and stats and everything is right where it needs to be. I honestly think this peaking for majors is a little bit of a myth.

“You’re trying to play well every week. Why would you turn up at tournaments if you didn’t want to try to compete and win and play good golf?”

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McIlroy and Koepka are vying to be the favourite for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, where McIlroy set the course record of 61 in the North of Ireland championship as a 16-year-old and where Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott was born and raised.

It is only the second occasion that the Open has been staged in Northern Ireland and the first time since 1951, but McIlroy is determined to enjoy a week which he never thought would happen.

“If I go back 10 years to when I was just starting off, and I thought to myself, ‘OK, in 10 years’ time, this is what you’ve achieved and this is where you’re going to be in the game, how would you go out and play?’

“I’ve achieved basically everything I wanted to in this game,” the 30-year-old said. “I’m in a very lucky position (although) there’s a couple of things I’d still like to do.

Patience means more prizes
McIlroy with the Claret Jug after winning the 2014 Open (David Davies/PA)

“And I’d say, ‘well, I’d go out and not have a care in the world’. That’s what you want to do. You want to go out and play like that, because I shouldn’t have a care in the world.

“The last 10 years have been a dream and it’s a matter of going out there and I think one of the big things for me next week is to enjoy the experience.

“It might be (another) 68 years until Portrush gets the Open, so go out and enjoy it. Smell the roses. Look around. See friends and family. It’s going to be such a great experience for me.

“The more I can enjoy that and roll with it and play with that freedom, the better I think I can do.”

McIlroy was buoyed by his visit to Portrush at the weekend as he realised that, despite the changes made to the course in recent years, he still feels very much at home.

“I went Saturday not really knowing what to expect, thinking how much have they changed it and how different it is going to feel,” he added.

“I’m not saying that it feels like the bigger version of the North of Ireland or anything, but I was surprised by how comfortable I felt.

“There is a quote which says ‘familiarity leads to certainty’. So if I can have that familiar feeling and that leads to certainty in my game and certainty in what I’m trying to do next week, that’s a good thing.”

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