He shared a hug with his tearful mum on the 18th green at Hoylake after winning the 2014 Open Championship and now Rory McIlroy is hoping to enjoy an equally memorable family moment at another of the game’s iconic venues.
As a 60th birthday present, the world No 2 is joining forces with his dad, Gerry, in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and ‘Team McIlroy’ mean business when they start out today at Carnoustie.
“I’m taking the team part of it almost just as serious as the individual part,” declared Rory, who has been runner-up three times in the latter since using his third-place finish in 2007 as the launchpad for one of the sport’s great careers.
“It’s my dad’s 60th birthday next week, and I said to him, ‘what do you want for your birthday?’, and he said, ‘I’d love to play the Dunhill one more time’. So this is his birthday present. His last hurrah, I think. Hopefully we have a good week and make it to Sunday [when the event concludes at St Andrews].”
Gerry, who famously placed a £200 bet on his son to become Open champion by the age of 25 and collected £100,000 following that Claret Jug success on Merseyside five years ago, is a low-handicap member at the ultra-exclusive Seminole in Florida.
“It’s not as if Neymar can go out and play with his dad,” added Rory, using football as an analogy. “My dad went through a period of playing a lot of golf and then, when I really started to play junior golf and amateur golf, he didn’t play any golf at all. Then, once I turned 18 and turned pro, and he didn’t have to look after me anymore, he started to play a lot more golf again.
“He’s sort of been through the cycle, and I think he’s probably enjoying golf more than he ever has. It’s great to see. Whenever he gets to play here, it’s his favourite week of the year and he loves it and enjoys it and embraces it. He’s in heaven this week, which is great.” The four-time major winner said he almost felt “guilty” when he beat his old man for the first time at Holywood, near Belfast, but not any more. “We’ve actually played against each other the last two days,” he said of the pair playing practice rounds at Kingsbarns and St Andrews.
“We’ve been giving each other some stick the last two days. He got the better of me yesterday and I was able to just beat him today. It will be nice to have him as my partner when we get to team up tomorrow and I’m excited for that.”