Sunday 24 March 2019

‘Rory must adapt if he wants to win Open’

Brian Creighton

Former champions led a chorus of criticism against Rory McIlroy yesterday, saying he must sharpen up his attitude towards the British Open after his denunciation of wet and windy links conditions at Royal St George's last Sunday.

But they recognised his potential and predicted he would adapt as necessary after finishing tied 26th.

Zimbabwean Nick Price, a former British Open champion here for the Senior British Open starting at Walton Heath today, said he found it strange as McIlroy had played so much links golf in his young life.

"But he's got to get his mindset right because he's going to have 20 or 30 Opens to play in his career and he doesn't want to have that kind of attitude. He had better get out there and start liking those courses and figuring out a way to play them. And if he's a good enough player, he will do that. He may not like it as much, but he will learn. I guarantee you, he will learn to play and enjoy it on links courses."

Ian Woosnam, an ex-Masters champion, excused McIlroy on grounds of age and said the pressure on him should be cut down. "He's only a young kid. He's going to say the wrong thing again and again. He's probably thinking:'What the hell have I said?'' commented the Welsh golfer.

"But if he wants to win the Open he's going to have to adapt. Tiger's adapted. Nicklaus adapted. Palmer, they all adapted. It's not changing your game. It's changing the way you think. All you have to do is move the ball back a couple of inches in your stance and take a club or even two clubs more to play. It's called control."

Corey Pavin, former US Open champion, also used McIlroy's youth in his defence. "How old is he, 22? I think as gets older, he'll maybe watch his words a little better," Pavin said.

"But he's young. I don't know many players who like wet and windy cold weather. I don't think there is any doubt he wants to win the Open Championship very badly."

Bernhard Langer, defending champion this week, said McIlroy should be used to bad weather. "Whether he hates it or not, he's going to get it here and there. You just have to deal with it."

Irish veteran Eamonn Darcy described McIlroy as "just incredible."

"He can adjust his game to anything. It's very hard for him winning that US Open and then coming and playing in the Open with the weather not good. It's easy not to be tough enough."

Tom Watson had sympathy for McIlroy. "He sounded like I did about links golf when I was his age. It's the uncertainty. In American golf the ball stops where you want it to. In links golf, it doesn't. You've got to learn to deal with that. He'll change. He'll get to a point where he'll understand that you have to manage yourself on links courses."

Des Smyth excused McIlroy: "I think he was correct. He got all the bad weather. His swing is so good, if the wind had been a little bit less, he'd have done better. I don't blame him. I don't think anyone likes wet and windy weather, but some guys handle it better than others. He handled it pretty well, but he's not Tom Watson yet. He's some way to go."

The same players were unanimous in their praise for Darren Clarke and the way he achieved victory on Sunday. No one summed it up better than Watson.

"First of all, a 42-year-old winning, especially after 20 years of trying and coming so close a couple of times, I can only imagine his joy at winning probably the tournament he wanted to win the most. And the manner in which he did it, the grace, the style, the laughter and the warmth and his congeniality -- it's great to see that in a Major champion.

"His Saturday round was just spectacular," Watson added. "My friend Andy North followed him the whole round for TV and said he never missed a shot. It was the finest ball-striking round he ever saw in a British Open.

"He's a great champion. He made it look so easy. He didn't ever look as if he wasn't going to win the tournament the way he hit the ball."

Senior British Open,

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