By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy has signaled an attacking policy for this week’s British Open, saying he hopes to use his driver liberally at Royal Portrush after having enjoyed considerable success with the strategy last year.
The par-71 Portrush measures a whisker over 7,300 yards, though links courses generally play shorter than their yardages due to firm fairways that afford plenty of roll.
Long hitters such as McIlroy need not hit their driver often but it can be advantageous to do so.
“Carnoustie last year I didn’t envisage hitting that many drivers and then I got there the week of the tournament,” McIlroy told Reuters of last year’s British Open in an interview organized by NBC’s Golf Channel.
What he saw at the Scottish course was less potential for trouble with wayward drives than he expected. A subsequent tie for second vindicated his attacking game-plan.
“I think what they’ve started to do at Open championships, to accommodate spectators, they’ve taken a lot of the gorse bushes away so Carnoustie last year I hit driver everywhere,” he said.
“I’m not expecting to do that at Portrush (but) it might be a case of like Carnoustie last year where I (arrive) thinking I’m only going to hit three or four drivers during the round but in actual fact it could be more like seven or eight, or nine or 10.”
McIlroy guesses that he has played Portrush between 50 and 100 times but only a handful of occasions since a re-design two years ago that included two new holes.
At Portrush in 2005, a 16-year-old McIlroy shattered the course record in shooting 61 at the North of Ireland Championship.
To commemorate, McIlroy has released a limited run of 61-degree wedges in partnership with NBC’s subscription website GOLFPASS.
McIlroy made a quick stop at Portrush en route to the Scottish Open, where he tied for 34th on Sunday.
Though he found his comfort level quickly, he said he still thinks of the par-three known as ‘Calamity Corner’ as the 14th hole, even though it is now the 16th.
“It’s just so hard for me to wrap my head around the new layout,” he said.
“I keep calling them the old hole numbers.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)