By Simon Evans
SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy says a lack of self-belief was to blame for his poor start to his opening round at the British Open on Thursday – and a chat with his caddie was what turned things around.
The four-times major winner came into the tournament at Royal Birkdale having failed to make the cut in three of his last four competitions, and got off to a miserable start with bogeys at five of the first six holes.
But a four under-par 32 on the back nine, including a birdie on the par-four 18th, salvaged his round to leave him one over for the day, six shots behind joint leaders Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar.
“I was nervous going out. I was a little anxious, timid… Just not as much belief in myself as I should have had,” said the 28-year-old, who won the tournament in 2014.
“JP [Caddie JP Fitzgerald] gave me a good talking on the second tee box, and sort of reminded me of where I was. That helped, that got me back in a positive frame of mind.”
Some conservative shot choices and solid putting on the back nine made the difference as McIlroy resisted the urge to panic and boosted his chances of being among the weekend’s contenders.
“I didn’t get angry out there at all. I didn’t let my head drop too much. So I kept a good, positive attitude. And it turned around for me, thankfully. It was nice to see the putt on 18 go in and close out today with something really positive.”
McIlroy will be among the early starters on Friday’s second round, and with heavy rain forecast for later in the day, this could be advantageous.
“With the weather we’re expecting tomorrow, I still feel I’m in the golf tournament.
“If I go out tomorrow under bad conditions and shoot something in the 60s, I feel like I’ll be right there for the weekend.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Edited by Julian Shea)