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Old devil-may-care attitude could reap major reward, says McIlroy

The 29-year-old’s last triumph in a major dates back to 2014.

Rory McIlroy during a press conference on preview day four of The Open Championship.
Rory McIlroy during a press conference on preview day four of The Open Championship.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

RORY MCILROY SAYS returning to playing the carefree golf of the start of his career may be the answer to adding a fifth major to his tally.

The 29-year-old — whose last triumph in a major dates back to 2014 — was speaking on the eve of the British Open at Carnoustie where he first burst onto the scene as the leading amateur in the 2007 edition.

McIlroy began this season well but has had a series of mixed results since fading in the final round of The Masters, when he was in the final pairing with eventual champion Patrick Reed.

However, he hopes coming back to the Scottish links can help him reproduce the golf he produced when he was starting out, as he looks to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday.

“I’ve alluded to the fact that I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” said McIlroy ahead of the first British Open in Carnoustie for 11 years.

“I just think, as you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life. I think it’s only natural.”

McIlroy says the difference between the hardened professional and the young buck really struck home when he practised with fiery young Spaniard Jon Rahm this week.

It’s more of playing with the freedom and, you know, almost like a — I don’t want to say naive, but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff,” he said.

“I think that I remember back to when we last played The Open here, and, again, look, I was just happy to be here.

“I was bouncing down the fairways, didn’t care if I shot 82 or 62. I was just happy to be here.

“The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

- ‘Got a lot of time left’ -

One of the abiding memories of the 2007 Open, aside from McIlroy indicating he would go on to greater things, was him playing with Padraig Harrington’s son Paddy while the Irishman was winning a play-off with Sergio Garcia.

“I think I saw Paddy today walking with Padraig,” he said. “He’s massive now.”

“Obviously, I don’t have any kids yet, but hopefully there’s a young amateur this week that’s waiting behind the 18th green on me, and I’m the one that’s coming up there and trying to win the tournament.”

McIlroy, though, does not believe it is time to talk about him needing a major in the near future to assure his legacy.

“You know, I think at this point I’m not trying to cement anything,” he said as he looks to claim a first major since bagging both The Open and the USPGA four years ago.

“Obviously, I’ve had a decent career up until this point, and I’ve got a lot of time left to add to my major tally or just tournaments won or whatever it is.

It’s hard to win any week on tour, let alone the four big ones that we get a year. Look, I was on a nice run there from 2011 to 2014. I haven’t won one since, but I’m trying.”

McIlroy has an excellent record in The Open of late, with his last three appearances seeing him win and then finish fifth and fourth — he missed the 2015 Open due to injury.

And he says that, win or lose, he is in a more settled state nowadays.

“If you put things in perspective and you have other things in your life, I think that’s where the balance comes from.

“As long as you return to your friends or your family who just love you for you and don’t care if you’ve won a Claret Jug or not, that’s what life’s about, and that’s the important thing. It’s having good people around you.

“You need people around you to knock you down a peg or two.”

© – AFP 2018

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