Rory McIlroy and major golf tournaments seemed set for a beautiful, fruitful relationship after the Ulsterman collected his first, the US Open, in the summer of 2011.
A more emphatic victory in a major you’ll struggle to find in the sport’s illustrious history. Indeed, the then fresh-faced 21 year old obliterated the field and strolled to an eight shot victory at Congressional breaking no less than eleven long standing records on his way to a 72-hole total of 16-under par total.
The win sparked memories of Tiger Woods’ dissection of Pebble Beach in the same event eleven years earlier, and the comparisons with Woods didn’t end there.
Much like Woods, his first major win was then expected to signal the opening of the floodgates. McIlroy duly delivered, adding the 2012 and 2014 USPGA Championships either side of his first Open victory in 2014.
A total of 4 majors in the space of three years, all by the age of 26, cemented McIlroy’s name as one of the dominant names in golf.
The United fan has not been able to add to his major tally since 2014 – but don’t let that fact deter you if you’re thinking of backing the former world number one this week as attention turns to the often devastatingly difficult Carnoustie.
True, it’s now 14 majors since his last victory, but in seven of those he’s managed to secure a top-10 finish, including a tie for fourth and fifth respectively at his last two Opens.
By his own admission, McIlroy was never a big fan of the often-brutal conditions of links golf in Britain, but his record would never suggest that was ever the case.
His win at Royal Liverpool in 2014 was claimed in much more friendly conditions than what a typical British summer usually throws up for the Open and by all accounts, the forecast is largely set fair for on the Scottish coast this week. It’s important to also factor in the dry weather we’ve enjoyed in the UK so far this year, making the fairways run for miles.
With those conditions in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see McIlroy contest another Claret Jug on the North Sea on Sunday.
His 2018 results have been fairly promising to date. 16 starts including six top-10s and one victory (the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational) is a very good return for a man who hasn’t been firing on all cylinders and in fact, has been largely philosophical about his future prospects in majors. Ahead of the Irish Open just less than a fortnight ago, he told the assembled press:
“Nothing is going to change in my life whether I win a major or not.
“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t but I don’t panic. It doesn’t keep me up at night.
My goal this year wasn’t to win majors, it was just to give myself a chance and to put myself into positions to see how I fare.”
It’s often when the least is expected of McIlroy that he duly delivers. A missed cut at the US Open and a mediocre tie for 28th at the Irish Open which he hosts in his last two outings, mean the current world number 8 arrives at Carnoustie as one of the lesser-fancied top ranked players.
But with the weather looking to be calm and dry for the most part and the perils of Carnoustie not quite showing their teeth as they have done in the past, this could be Rory McIlroy’s week.