• World No.4 talks to bunkered.co.uk at Royal Troon
• Keen to make up for lost time after sitting out last year
• "I feel like my game is in good shape"
RORY McILROY | 2016 OPEN
Rory McIlroy is optimistic that he can make up for the ‘bitter disappointment’ of missing his Open Championship defence through injury last year by winning the Claret Jug at 'tough but fair' Royal Troon next week.
Talking to bunkered.co.uk at the Ayrshire links following his second practice round in as many days, the world No.4 revealed that he believes he can nab his fifth major championship and, at the same time, make amends for having to sit out last year’s Open at St Andrews.
Rory McIlroy launches a drive on No.18 at Royal Troon today
“I feel like my game is in good shape and hopefully I can contend this week,” said McIlroy. “It’s a tough golf course but a fair course where the guy who plays the best over the week is probably going to be the guy who wins and, naturally, I’d love for that to be me.”
The 27-year-old, who won his first Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014, was unable to defend the Claret Jug last year after rupturing his ankle ligaments whilst playing football with friends.
Even so, he dismissed the notion that this year’s championship would be the defence he never got to have.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to take that away from Zach Johnson after what he did at St Andrews last year. But it’s nice to be back. The last memories I have of the Open are winning and lifting the Claret Jug, which is pretty nice. I was bitterly disappointed to miss out on the chance to defend, particularly last year with it being at St Andrews.
"There are going to be a lot of Texas wedges" - Rory McIlroy
"It’s a golf course that I feel I can win on and so to miss that opportunity and have to wait another five years for it to come back was quite tough but these things happen. I’ll just try to make the most of this week.”
The Open last visited Royal Troon in 2004 when American Todd Hamilton pipped Ernie Els to the title. Central to Hamilton’s success that week was his versatile Sonartec Md hybrid, which he used everywhere from off the tee to around the green.
McIlroy, who says he has made no changes to his equipment ahead of next week, anticipates that rather than a hybrid, his prospects of winning will be largely dependent on his putter instead.
“There are probably going to be a lot of Texas wedges,” he said. “It’s actually quite generous around a lot of the greens. Even if you miss them, there are lots of areas where you can still putt from.
McIlroy walking to the 18th tee with Mark Crane (Chris Wood's caddie)
He added: “If the wind gets up, you’ll probably want to make the most of the front nine, whilst the back nine will be a case of holding on and just trying to make pars. I don’t imagine there will be many birdie opportunities there. It’s a great stretch of holes but very tough and, hopefully, I can be the guy who plays it the best.”
Meanwhile, one of the men expected to compete with McIlroy for the Claret Jug, Adam Scott, is hopeful that his recent close shaves in the Open will stand him in good stead this year.
The world No.8 squandered a gilt-edged chance to win the championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012 when he bogeyed his final four holes to miss out by a shot.
He subsequently won the 2013 Masters to break his major duck but, interestingly, he has also finished tied third, tied fifth and tied tenth in his three Open appearances since his Lytham heartbreak.
Adam Scott putts on the 18th green at Royal Troon today
“I had a great chance at Lytham but, in the three years since then, I feel like I’ve put myself into contention every time without being able to quite pull it off,” the Aussie told bunkered.co.uk. “So, it’s going to be a case of just trying to do that again this year and hoping that the experiences I’ve had recently will finally pay off for me.
“Do I dream about winning? Sure I do. You’ve got to. It’s not like I spend all day thinking about it or anything but I think you’ve got go to go through the whole process to get to where you want to go.”
The view from the 18th grandstand at Royal Troon earlier today
Like McIlroy, Scott was playing his second practice round at Royal Troon today and he was impressed with what he saw.
“It’s a fantastic golf course,” added the 35-year-old. “You need to very precise off the tee and into the greens here. I suspect that whoever hits the most greens is going to do very, very well.
I think the wind is going to be the defence here this week because it’s soft and green. It’s probably not what the R&A nor the golf club wanted in terms of firmness but it’s a real test when the wind picks up from the south-west, particularly the back nine. Hopefully, I can cope with that challenge and put myself in a good position come Sunday.”
The view that awaits players on the first tee at Royal Troon next week
Rory McIlroy? Adam Scott? A.N. Other? Who will win the Open?
Who are you backing for Open glory this year? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.