It was just a year ago when newly crowned U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy struggled to a T25 finish at the British Open, where he suggested before the contest even began that he would just as soon never again play links golf in the pouring rain.
Indeed, after a disappointing close to the Open Championship, McIlroy confirmed sentiments he had expressed previously and with some regularity that he preferred a calmer, more predictable environment than the one he found at England’s Royal St. George’s in 2011.
"Yeah, I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather," McIlroy said after a 3-over final round that included a one-stroke penalty when the wind moved his ball after he set his putter behind it. "It's not my sort of golf."
Skip ahead 12 months, and McIlroy, who missed the cut in an unsuccessful attempt to defend his U.S. Open title and entered this week's event with far less fanfare than came his way in 2011, was back to give foul-weather golf another try. This time, he said, he was up to the challenge.
“Those comments were just pure frustration with ... having really high expectations going into it, coming off a major win,” McIlroy told reporters Tuesday ahead of this week’s competition on a very wet Royal Lytham & St Annes track. “Really wanting to play well, get into contention and not doing that. And blaming the weather, blaming the draw, blaming my luck, basically ... that was just frustration.
“Looking back on it a year later,” McIlroy added, “I just didn't play well enough to get into contention and didn't handle the conditions as best as I could have.”
Since dissing everything British Open-related last year, the pride of Holywood, Northern Ireland, has experienced his share of on-course ups and downs under even the most benign of weather conditions. He began the 2012 PGA Tour season with a surge of top-three finishes but suffered three missed cuts in his last four tour starts, including the Open washout at The Olympic Club.
Four strong rounds at a wet and windy Irish Open earlier this month, however, landed McIlroy a share of 10th place. His performance at countryman Graeme McDowell’s home course of Royal Portrush Golf Club inspired confidence in the 23-year-old, who claimed his refreshed game could help him overcome whatever Mother Nature threw his way.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball great. I think it’s the best I’ve swung the club all year,” said McIlroy, who posted a 4-under on the back nine in a practice round last Friday. “It's keeping the ball in play, keeping it out of the bunkers and out of the rough. Not only if I can do that, but if anyone can do that in this field, they've got a great chance.”
As for competing in bad weather, that was “something that I'm trying to do more of and felt like I did that [in Ireland],” McIlroy said.
“To some degree at Portrush felt like I played well in the bad conditions,” he added. “And if it's like that again this week, you're just going to have to knuckle down and focus and keep fighting and stay tough and try and shoot a score in bad conditions.”