Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy is competing in his first Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open since 2014 and is aiming to make up for lost time when the action tees off at Dundonald Links today.
The Northern Irishman is in the marquee group alongside US Ryder Cup star Rickie Fowler and Open champion Henrik Stenson for the first two rounds and he’s targeting a big week in Ayrshire after the disappointment of missing the cut on home soil at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation last week.
Inconsistent form coupled with injury has tested the world No. 4’s patience this season but he’s hoping for a confidence-boosting few days ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale next week.
“I feel I’ve got ground to make up this year because of not playing as much as I would have wanted, and when I have played, not getting the results that I’ve wanted to,” he said.
“So it’s a big week. I want to play well. I want to have a chance to win. I feel like if I get myself in contention, that’s a great confidence boost for me going into Birkdale as well.
“The Open Championship is eight days away. We’ve got a big tournament coming up first and I want to play well here. I need to see good signs in my golf game going in there to have a bit of confidence, and I do see good signs, but as I just said, I just need to put it all together and shoot a couple of good scores.”
McIlroy has enjoyed his first taste of what Dundonald Links has to offer and added: “I think it will be a good test this week. I mean, if the weather stays like it is, you’ll probably see scores like we saw last week at Portstewart.
“You know, if the wind gets up a little bit, it can be pretty tricky because you have to be pretty accurate off the tee here. The rough is pretty thick in places and if you get yourself out of position, it can become difficult.”
Stenson experienced the biggest win of his career just a few miles down the North Ayrshire coast at Royal Troon last year, and the Swede stressed how important the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is as part of his preparations.
“To be back here on a beautiful day, it’s easy to remember last summer, of course, and what we managed to accomplish a little bit down the road there,” he said.
“It’s been a busy year, and the Scottish Open is an important part of my preparation for the Open Championship, as you know. I’m here to try to play a bit of links golf and hopefully pick up some momentum and some form.
“I don’t feel like it’s miles away. So we’re just trying to tidy up the loose ends a little bit and get going in the right direction. This week could be a very good week to do that.”
The Swede admitted he wasn’t prepared for what followed his Open triumph, with demands on his time off the course hindering what he could do on it.
He said: “I haven’t played my best golf this year. I’ve been quite busy off the course, and I’m sure that’s impacted the performances to a degree.
“It’s kind of like before and after having kids. When you have kids, your life changes and it’s like you can’t believe what you did with all the time you had before. It’s a little bit the same. I don’t know what I did with my time before I had the Claret Jug in my possession.
“It’s been a busy year, but I don’t want to sit here and complain about it. That’s certainly not the way we look at it. I think it’s going to be a bit of turning the page next week when I have to return the Claret Jug on Monday, and then we’re kind of looking ahead instead of looking back.”