Friday 6 December 2019

St Andrews offers McIlroy another Open opportunity


McIlroy will be back at what he has described as “probably my favourite venue in the world.” Photo by John Dickson / Sportsfile
McIlroy will be back at what he has described as “probably my favourite venue in the world.” Photo by John Dickson / Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy will get a long-awaited second chance to win The Open at the St Andrews when the 150th edition of the game's oldest Major returns to the Home of Golf in 2021.

Golf's worst-kept secret was confirmed by the R&A yesterday, meaning that 2014 'Champion Golfer' McIlroy will be back at what he has described as "probably my favourite venue in the world," hoping to join the immortals of the game who have won the Claret Jug on the hallowed turf.

"St Andrews is the most appropriate place for the 150th playing and we are working on initiatives to mark that achievement," R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.

"There is something magical about an Open Championship at St Andrews and this one will be very special."

McIlroy has an incredible sub-70 scoring average on the Old Course and three times finished runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship there.

He equalled the then Major championship scoring record by opening with a nine-under 63 in the 2010 Open to take the first round lead but shot 80 in high winds in round two and eventually finished tied for third behind South African Louis Oosthuizen.

The Co Down man was hoping to join the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods on the list of great champions to win at St Andrews when the Open returned there in 2015, but he suffered a total rupture of his left ankle ligaments less than a fortnight before the championship, preventing him from defending the Claret Jug he won at Royal Birkdale.

"It was one that I'd earmarked since 2010, and possibly have a chance to win a Claret Jug there," McIlroy (pictured) said of that bitter disappointment.

"I feel of all the courses on the Open rota, that's probably my best chance to win."

The 2015 edition was the last to be played in St Andrews, where Irish amateur Paul Dunne held a share of the 54-hole lead.

American Zach Johnson went on to defy difficult weather conditions in a Monday finish to defeat Marc Leishman and 2010 champion Oosthuizen in a four-hole play-off as Dunne finished tied 30th.

Two-time Open champion Pádraig Harrington, who contended for the title on the final day at St Andrews in 2015 before eventually finishing tied for 20th, loves the Open there.

"Everybody loves going there - the Home of Golf, the town of St Andrews," said Harrington, who has won two Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at the storied venue but was unable to play there in 2005 following the death of his father.

"Everything about it is a fantastic week."

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