Rory McIlroy’s self-assessment of his week’s work at Royal Liverpool after his final round of the 151st British Open raised some eyebrows.
“Solid,” world no. The 2nd-ranked player said after finishing sixth at 6-under par, despite entering the week as the undisputed tournament favorite, seven shots behind winner Brian Harman, who last played the Open at Hoylake in 2014, and won the Scottish Open the week before.
With all of these factors in mind, outside expectations for McElroy were extremely high, expectations that certainly paled in comparison to his own.
Yet McIlroy, with more pressure on himself than anyone else in the field, failed to capture the fifth major championship trophy of his career.
After his fourth win for the 34th time.
“I improved every day,” McIlroy said, referring to his scores of 71, 70, 69 and 68.
So, he had this for him.
Sunday marked 3,288 days since McIlroy won the 2014 PGA Championship, the last of his four major championships.
He has since competed in 34 majors, finishing in the top 10 in 20 of them, finishing in the top 5 10 times, and finishing runner-up three times.
“Confidence is high,” McIlroy said. “I had a great opportunity in L.A. [last month at the U.S. Open, where he finished second] And the job’s not done, and this week, if not for one man [Harman]I will be there.
McIlroy was not wrong in that assessment. Feels like he is trying to mold himself into positive thoughts.
Paging Tony Robbins.
If McIlroy looks back on last week, he very well could have – some say he should have birdied the first six holes on Saturday, known as “moving day”. He tapped in from about a foot for birdie on the first hole, then missed a 5-footer for birdie on the no. 2, a 9-footer for birdie at no. 4 and 11-footers for birdie at no. 6.
Instead of making an emphatic statement, McIlroy was only 2-under through six holes and finished only 2-under for the round, which would have likely cost him a big-time charge.
Entering the final round, McIlroy was tied for first on the tee and fifth in approach shots, but tied for 112th in putts. In that final round, McIlroy birdied 3, 4 and 5 to move up on the board and at least put himself within shouting distance of Herman, but he stalled again, playing the rest of the round at even par.
Therefore, McIlroy will enter 2024 in his 10th year without adding a fifth career major championship to his record and the pressure will mount next April as the 2024 Masters approaches.
McIlroy, after his final run, remained stuck on what he had not been able to do over the past nine years and instead focused on what lay ahead of him, even at the age of 34.
”I don’t think so,” he said.
However, there are two things here:
- A player of McIlroy’s talent and pedigree won’t be measured by how many FedExCups he’s won or the number of times he’s won the Race to Dubai.
- And the Ryder Cup, although it leaves a significant mark on a player’s legacy, is a team event and not something that best defines a top player’s legacy.
Consider that Colin Montgomery is one of the greatest Ryder Cup players of all time and has won a record number of Order of Merit titles on the European Tour, but he has never won a single tournament or major championship in the US. And these are the things that define his career as much as his Ryder Cup success.
Golf is a selfish game. The best players of all time are measured by how many major championships they won.
Jack Nicklaus and the number 18 are synonymous with each other as he won a record 18 major championships. Some people who follow golf don’t even know that Tiger Woods has played in 15 majors.
Even if he doesn’t want to admit it publicly, McIlroy knows that four major championships don’t befit his talent and the opportunities he’s given himself.
“At the end of the day, when I look back on my career, will I remember my fifth [actually sixth] end up in Hoylake in 2023?” McIlroy said. “Probably not.”
McIlroy didn’t speak more truthful words to him all week.