SANDWICH, England – Rory McIlroy was the first player off on a dreary Sunday morning at Royal St. George’s and played his 18-hole practice round in virtual solitude.
Missing the cut at this week’s Scottish Open gave McIlroy the opportunity to get an early look at next week’s Open Championship venue, and a rainy forecast early next week made the extra practice logical. But if he’s being honest, McIlroy just wanted to be back at the game’s oldest championship.
“It’s a tough one because 2020 provided a lot of challenges for a lot of different reasons, the other three majors were played and this one wasn’t,” he said. “In my opinion this is the biggest and best of them all, and the fact that this one wasn’t played was disappointing, but understandably things were different here than they were in the States.
“It just makes it a little sweeter that we’re here.”
Having played Royal St. George’s twice as an amateur and at the 2011 Open, McIlroy said he is familiar enough with the links layout.
“As soon as I stood up on every tee box I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember this,’” said McIlroy, who tied for 25th in 2011 after weekend rounds of 74-73. “The landscape looks so barren, there’s not a lot of stuff that stands out. It’s just a bunch of dunes and it’s hard to see where the holes go. But once you stand on the tees you remember.”
Monday and Tuesday forecasts call for plenty of rain, which could make the early work – he also played 11 holes at Royal St. George’s on Saturday (the front nine, and Nos. 17 and 18) – an advantage for the Northern Irishman.
“I looked at the forecast and it looks pretty wet tomorrow and Tuesday so I wanted to get out and play and re-familiarize myself with the golf course,” said McIlroy, who said he’d likely play nine-hole practice rounds each day before Thursday’s opening round. “Now I can just sort take it a little easier.”