Thursday 5 December 2019

Rory McIlroy's Ibiza break restores his major focus

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland said he felt flat after playing six out of eight weeks (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland said he felt flat after playing six out of eight weeks (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

James Corrigan

Rory McIlroy would not have been the first young man who has recently broken up to run off with mates for a week in Ibiza.

Yet the holiday a fortnight ago had more to do with freshening up before what he hopes will be a Major-winning second half to the season – starting with the British Open.

However one feels about McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki (and, in tennis circles, it seems it rather ridiculously became a villain-victim scenario), the 25-year-old should not be begrudged his time away.

When missing the cut at the Irish Open, McIlroy felt "flat" having played six out of eight weeks. Some 'me time' was plainly in order.

"It was the first time in four years that I had gone on a lads' trip," McIlroy said. "It was great. I chilled out and it was nice to get away from the game for a bit. I didn't touch a golf club while I was there. But once I got back, I really wanted to get back into it again."

McIlroy managed to avoid a few 'controversies' while on the island. There were repeated reports of a new love interest, while the latest details from the Commercial Court in Dublin where he is suing his former management company, Horizon Sports, led some to suggest that Europe's Ryder Cup harmony was under threat.

Graeme McDowell's name was brought into the legal debate by McIlroy's lawyers and the fear was a fallout between friends would spell trouble for Europe's captain Paul McGinley.

"It's complete nonsense," McIlroy said. "I would love to tee it up with G-Mac in the Ryder Cup and Paul knows that. I am still close to G-Mac.

"There's obviously been a few things that have gone on that have strained the relationship, but I still talk to him regularly and catch up with him. He has stayed out of everything as much as he can.

"There's no ill feeling towards him from my side. G-Mac knows what is going on (with the court case). It hasn't affected our relationship in any way. He's one of my best friends on the Tour."

McIlroy put on a highly impressive clinic at the official opening of the equally impressive Nike Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield Links yesterday. At one stage, the computer informed the stunned audience that he had hit a three-wood 315 yards.

The last time McIlroy was at the exclusive club in North Berwick was when he stayed there 12 months ago during the Open at nearby Muirfield.

It was not a happy experience at what is turning out to be not a happy tournament for McIlroy. His tie for third at St Andrews in 2010 is his only Open top-20 finish, with his last three efforts amounting to a tie for 25th, a tie for 60th and then that missed cut 12 months ago.

However, he sees no reason why his third major should not be at his 'home Major'.

"I've won big tournaments on links courses and shot a 63 in the Open at St Andrews and a course-record 61 when I was at Portrush, which isn't too shabby. I can play links golf; it's just a case of getting the hang of it again."

That process will continue when he tees it up in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen on Thursday.

Since returning from his break, McIlroy has undergone nine days of intensive links practice, which included a visit to Royal County Down. He also spent two days at Hoylake and liked what he saw.

"I still think St Andrews is my best chance to win an Open but seeing Hoylake over the last couple of days, it is very scoreable. I'm relaxed and ready."

Meanwhile, Stephanie Meadow will go hunting for more glory at Royal Birkdale this weekend after extending her spectacular stretch of top-three finishes yesterday in final qualifying for the Ricoh Women's British Open.

Meadow, 22, who finished third on her professional debut in the recent Women's US Open at Pinehurst and followed-up with a top-three finish on Sunday at the European Ladies Masters, shot a five-under-par 69 at Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club.

That left her joint-third with England's Holly Aitchison in the 66-strong field, one behind Becky Brewerton of Wales and Thailand's Nontaya Srisawang.

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