When Rory McIlroy tees off next week in what's sure to be one of the biggest tournaments of his career, he hopes to do so with freedom.
McIlroy is headlining the field this week at the Scottish Open, where he told reporters Wednesday his sole focus is on lifting the trophy at Renaissance. But before he flew to Europe he spoke with Carson Daly for the latest installment of the "Rory & Carson Podcast," available exclusively on GolfPass.
Much of the conversation focused on The Open at Royal Portrush, as McIlroy gets set to play a major in his native country for the first time in his career. His affinity with the Dunluce Links course goes back to his time spent there as a youth watching his father, Gerry, play the course in the annual North of Ireland Amateur. When the younger McIlroy got his chance to tee it up in the event, he torched Portrush to the tune of a 61 at age 16 that still stands as the course record.
The opportunity to play for a claret jug in front of friends and family on a course he knows so well is not lost on the four-time major champ.
"Never in a million years did I think that an Open Championship would be played again at Royal Portrush," McIlroy said. "To think about just where the game of golf is nowadays, and to think that The Open's coming back to Portrush after 60-whatever years, it's really, really cool. So I'm excited, I can't wait to get back home."
McIlroy couldn't get it going over the weekend in his most recent start, tying for ninth at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. But the week before that he played perhaps his best round of the year, challenging a final-round 59 en route to a decisive victory at the RBC Canadian Open.
Having had a few weeks to assess what went right in Canada and what went awry at Pebble, his Open game plan will call for more "freedom of swing."
"One of the phrases that I've used recently is 'give myself permission.' I want to give myself permission to be free. Give myself permission to storm the castle," McIlroy said. "That's one of the things we do, I want to go and storm the castle. It's just saying, you know what, it's OK whether you win or not. I'd rather lose playing that way than lose playing conservatively and not really giving myself a chance. I'd rather play to win."
McIlroy also won earlier this year at The Players, but he brought up last year's Tour Championship as an instance where he faltered under the bright lights while watching Tiger Woods end a five-year victory drought. With another trophy recently added to his own shelf, he's hoping to model the mindset he used while closing with 61 last month in Ontario.
"I wanted to put my foot down from the start, and I played with the freedom I wanted to play with," he said. "And I think that if I continue to play with that freedom, and not be as careful or as tentative when I get myself in these pressure situations, it's going to be the best way for me to produce the golf that I produced in Canada."
For more of the "Rory & Carson Podcast," including McIlroy's stance on why cell phones are bad for you and how his winning putter almost got lost in Canada, visit GolfPass and sign up to get access to this and every episode.