Despite often being one of the hottest tips when it comes to winning one of golf’s major tournaments, it almost seems a lifetime away that Rory McIlroy secured one of the PGA’s big four. Much like London buses, you wait ages for one, before two come along at once – and that’s exactly what it must have felt like for the then-25-year-old, who secured both the PGA Championship and The Open titles in 2014.
Sadly, for the Northern Irishman, that year of much success was the last time that McIlroy won any of golf’s majors. Since then, he’s attained a wealth of top-10 finishes, but hasn’t done quite enough to breakthrough. A T2 finish at the 2018 Open Championship – albeit, McIlroy was tied with three other golfers, and two shots behind winner, Francesco Molinari – was the closest he’s come. And it looks as though another year will pass without another title to his name.
It has been a year of disappointment so far for the former PGA World Number 1, who now sits outside of the top 10. He looked out of sorts at Augusta in the Masters, failing to make the cut for only the second time since his debut in 2009. He had a shaky start at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship, and struggled to regain any kind of form, as he limped out with a finish of T49. Way off the pace, he recognised he had a long way to go. And a T7 finish at the US Open just last month was one way of rectifying it. While he was five shots off Jon Rahm, who won his first major title, there was some improvement.
Which leads on to The Open Championship – rescheduled from last year and to be held at Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent. As we come to expect, McIlroy’s name is up there as one of the favourites to secure the Claret Jug, according to The Open 2021 odds. At the time of writing, the Northern Irishman is the second-favourite, behind Spaniard Rahm at a price of 11/1.
And while he had claimed before that he needs to up his game ahead of the major tournaments, it’s become even more evident this time around. That US Open finish was a step in the right direction, but it’s since been masked by a disappointing performance in the Irish Open. McIlroy was the highest-ranked player in the field, but failed to build on his second-round score of 67, and consequently finished the tournament T59 – 17 strokes behind the winner Lucas Herbert.
The Scottish Open kicks off this week, and it will be McIlroy’s last opportunity to return to form before taking to the course in Kent. He told the media:
“I certainly don’t feel as good about where I’m at compared to where I was after the US Open,”
“But I’ve got another week to get ready and prepare and I obviously want to play well next week as well and have a chance to win.
“There’s nothing better than preparing for a major championship by getting into contention the week before. But I need to work pretty hard on my game the next few days before heading into the Scottish Open.”
After that victory in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy unfortunately missed the 2015 edition of The Open through injury. He secured top-10 finishes in the subsequent three tournaments, before crashing out on home soil in 2019. McIlroy failed to make the cut at Royal Portrush, where, of course, there was added pressure.
He’s made no secret that he’s not been enjoying his golf as much as he once did and a marked improvement is needed. But by playing free from the pressures and the shackles of gaining another major title, McIlroy might just get that form back.