It wasn’t Rory McIlroy’s direct answer to being asked if he felt talk of him becoming the Ringo Starr in golf’s “Fab Four” was justified, but it was the perfect response, nonetheless.
“I’ve got four major championships, and I’d love to add to that tally, just as those guys would love to add to their one (Jason Day and Dustin Johnson) and two (Jordan Spieth) majors, and just keep going,” he said.
With those words, the 27-year-old reminded us who, out of that quartet, has the best track record when it comes to events like this week’s 145th Open Championship, even though he heads into the event at Royal Troon sitting fourth in the world rankings behind Day, Johnson and Spieth.
The Ringo analogy – drummers always perform in the shadows – has come about due to McIlroy, by his high standards at least, running into a relatively dry spell. His last major win was 23 months ago in the US PGA Championship at Valhalla. His sole success this season was in the Irish Open in May.
Whereas McIlroy was the player on fire two years ago, when he won three events in a row – even more impressive was the fact they happened to be The Open, WGC Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA Championship – Spieth was the player in the spotlight 12 months ago as he chased a Grand Slam and now all eyes this week are on Johnson, golf’s new man of the moment.
It would be utterly foolish, though, for anyone to write McIlroy off in the 145th staging of this event and, if it doesn’t happen this week, then he is confident it won’t be too long before he is indeed adding to that major title haul.
“Winning majors isn’t easy,” he insisted, bristling a tad. “It’s not just about turning up and playing and collecting a trophy. There is more than goes into it than that. Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed if someone said at the PGA Championship at Valhalla ‘you’re not going to win one of the next five majors you play’, but it sometimes goes in cycles. It’s a very long career, so there’s plenty of time to rack up more major championships.
“If that means I have to go through a dry spell of two years, then so be it. But I feel like when I play my best golf, if I’m not the favourite, I’m one of the favourites.
“I’m pretty confident that if I do play my best golf, then there’s a good chance that I’ll end up coming out on top. One of the big things why I haven’t won this year is I’ve maybe not been aggressive enough and trusted myself. But, hopefully, this is the week I start to trust myself more and start pulling off more of the shots I’m trying to hit.”
McIlroy, of course, missed out on defending the Claret Jug at St Andrews 12 months ago after injuring himself playing football with his friends.
“It was one I’d earmarked since 2010 because I feel of all the courses on the Open rota, that’s probably the best chance to win,” he said.
“So watching it was difficult, though not as difficult as I thought it would be. Funny as it sounds, I actually enjoyed watching over the weekend.”
Like the other members of that “Fab Four”, McIlroy is getting his first taste of Troon this week, having paid a couple of visits last week to get acquainted with the course before playing another 18 holes yesterday.
“I don’t think so,” he replied to being asked if he was at a disadvantage this week compared to the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood, all of whom played here in 2004. “I’ve gone to plenty of golf courses before that I haven’t played and been able to do well on them and I think this course is pretty self-explanatory with greens that are quite flat.”
To get his hands back on the Claret Jug on Sunday night, though, he’ll need to negotiate the Postage Stamp better than he did yesterday.
“I think I took an 8 or 9, so that didn’t go too well,” he reported, ruefully. “I hit it into the front right bunker and took five or six to get out.
“There’s a lot of sand in the bunkers so when the ball just trickles back in, it doesn’t go into the middle. That lip there is basically vertical and every time I tried to get it out, it would go back into the same spot.
“It was a bit of a struggle, but,hopefully, struggle is out of the way for that hole.”