A former Open Championship winner with six top-five finishes in the tournament, Rory McIlroy’s pedigree when it comes to playing elite golf on the UK coast is second-to-none.
And the Irishman added to his canon of glories on the Links by adding the Scottish Open crown to his collection in July 2023 – a tournament played in a howling gale at the Renaissance Club in Scotland.
All the signs point towards more success for McIlroy on UK soil as he looks to end a major title drought that dates back to 2014.
The 34-year-old is a perennial favorite in the Open Championship betting odds, and this year he will set off as the +550 market principle ahead of the likes of Scottie Scheffler (+600), Jon Rahm (+1000) and defending champion Cameron Smith (+1200).
It’s scarcely believable to think that McIlroy hasn’t won one of golf’s majors since the last time he prevailed in the Open Championship back in 2014.
Since then, he’s compiled a staggering 19 top-ten finishes in the sport’s most prized tournaments but has been unable to get over the winning line despite some close calls – including at the 2023 U.S. Open, where he was denied by a staying-on performance by major maiden Wyndham Clark.
Of all the majors, you sense that it’s the Open Championship where McIlroy’s best chance lies – these are the conditions he was born and raised in, after all, and the man himself has claimed that victory at the Scottish Open was the best prep possible.
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) July 16, 2023
He referenced the two defining shots of his Sunday round – including a remarkable 200-yard 2-iron hit into a headwind that settled barely 10 feet from the cup to confirm his narrow victory over the local favorite, Robert MacIntyre.
“The way I played the last two holes, going into the next few months and seasons I can always draw on that memory of being able to get it done under the toughest of conditions,” he mused afterward.
That was the 24th win of McIlroy’s career in PGA TOUR-sanctioned events. You wonder how many he would of those he would trade for a fifth major title.
Under the Radar
To end his long hoodoo, McIlroy will need to defeat a field packed with worthy adversaries, not least world number one Scheffler, Masters champion Rahm, and the reigning Open Championship victor Smith.
The latter is particularly beguiling given his defection to LIV Golf, a tour so low-key that its events are barely shown on TV anywhere around the world. The LIV contingent was in danger of becoming the forgotten men of the sport – until that is, Brooks Koepka offered a timely reminder of his talents by winning the PGA Championship earlier this year.
So a lack of high-octane action is not necessarily enough to preclude the LIV contingent from major glory, and few players in the world are as adept at Links golf as Smith – an Australian for whom a strong wind and firm and fast conditions on the ground are if you’ll pardon the pun, par for the course.
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) July 9, 2023
The 29-year-old has the driving distance to match anyone on planet golf, his iron game is excellent and his short game – derived from ingenious chipping and a pressure-averse putting stroke – is where he makes his money. Also Read – Top 5 Movies Inspired on Athletes and Sports
A relatively late developer, since the start of 2020 Smith has won the wind-affected Sony Open and Tournament of Champions, the so-called ‘fifth major’ at the Players Championship and, of course, the Open Championship at St Andrews last year, where he carded a miraculous -8 round of 64 on the Sunday to catapult his way up the leaderboard.
With two recent victories at LIV Golf events, Smith is – like McIlroy – primed for success at the Open Championship. It will be fascinating to see if that duo is in the frame for the Claret Jug at the end of the 72 holes.