Sport Golf

Saturday 15 December 2018

Wary McIlroy keen not to 'over-prepare' for Open

Rory McIlroy won't be playing in this week’s Scottish Open at Gullane. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Rory McIlroy won't be playing in this week’s Scottish Open at Gullane. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy is determined not to repeat his US Open mistake and over-do his preparations for the Open next week.

The world number eight admits he "over-prepared" for Shinnecock Hills, playing on 18 of 19 days between the BMW PGA and the Memorial before teeing it up at a host of courses on Long Island in the build-up to the second major of the season, where he missed the cut.

McIlroy made his major championship debut at Carnoustie as an amateur in 2007, winning the silver medal as Pádraig Harrington became the first golfer from the island of Ireland to lift the Claret Jug for 60 years.

McIlroy also knows the Carnoustie course well, with his five top 10s in seven starts in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - hosted by Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews - as well as third place on his debut and three runner-up finishes.

"I felt like I almost over-prepared for Shinnecock," said McIlroy. "I was there too long and I was starting to see all the spots you shouldn't hit it in and that's where I was hitting it in.

"So to know the course and know what to expect, it will be nice."

The Holywood man has no fears that the R&A will make the same mistakes the USGA made on Long Island last month, when the course dried out on Saturday afternoon and Phil Mickelson was one of many players who let their frustrations get the better of them.

"The Open is never going to get like that because the greens won't get that fast and the greens aren't that slopey," he said. "Even if it gets rock hard, it's still very, very fair and playable."

McIlroy joined the likes of Dustin Johnson at exclusive Queenwood's Pro-Member outing yesterday and planned to spend some time in London before returning to Co Down at the weekend to prepare for Carnoustie.

He's not playing in this week's Scottish Open at Gullane, where Graeme McDowell will be trying to win one of the three spots up for grabs to join Harrington, Paul Dunne and Darren Clarke - who are also in Scotland - and the resting Shane Lowry in the Open.

As for Irish Open, where just six of the world's top 50 played, 2019 host Paul McGinley knows that a strong field is no guarantee of a successful event.

"Yes it would be nice to have one or two of the Americans come but ultimately the success is not dependent on the quality of the field," McGinley said of Ballyliffin. "It's more dependent on the weather and we've been blessed with the weather."

The Dubliner pointed out that the 2015 event at Royal County Down is not remembered fondly despite the presence of 13 of the world's top 50 that week.

"Would I prefer to have had the quality of the field we had in Royal County Down and terrible weather or would I rather be here with the field we had and unbelievable weather?" he asked.

"They've been lucky here whereas Royal County Down wasn't lucky."

With the weather an unknown, making Lahinch a big party with a sprinkling of iconic special guests is McGinley's task now.

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