Given Rory McIlroy’s start of plus five after six holes on the first day of the British Open, the Northern Irishman’s joint fourth-place finish on five under par represented a solid week’s work.
The 28-year-old McIlroy believes, however, that he squandered an opportunity at Royal Birkdale to add to his four major titles and admitted his three-year major famine was starting to grate.
“Geez, one year (without winning a major)… feels like too long. But these things happen,” he said after posting a 67 on Sunday, his best round of the tournament.
“I’ve still got 15, 20 more years to add to that tally. But, yeah, look, I feel like three years has been too long. “You look at Jack Nicklaus, he went through a stretch where he didn’t win a major in three years. I’m not comparing myself to Jack. It’s hard to win them. It’s very hard,” he said.
McIlroy’s last major win was in the 2014 U.S. PGA, which came weeks after his only British Open title at Royal Liverpool, and he now heads to Quail Hollow for this year’s final shot at wining one of golf’s marquee events.
“The PGA is only three weeks away. So I’m happy that’s coming quite quickly on the back of this,” he said. “The game is in much better shape than it was heading into this week. So I’m happy with that. “But I feel like with the way my game is I’ll definitely have a great chance at the PGA.”
Once again McIlroy punctured a round of occasional brilliance with the occasional disaster, this time losing a ball from a wild hook off the 15th tee when he was pushing to get level with China’s Haotong Li, the clubhouse leader on six under.
There also many moments of encouragement, though, with an eagle on 17, a couple of birdies and a solid outward half of pars, which suggests he has moved on from his recent troubles which saw him miss the cuts at the Irish and Scottish Opens.
Ever the perfectionist, McIlroy said the round was “a lost opportunity”.
“I felt like I had a chance to get in a few shots better than I did. And I didn’t. And that would have put me a bit closer to the lead going out today and maybe it would have — maybe I would have been able to put a bit of pressure on the guys in front of me.”