Rory McIlroy reckons he’s close to mastering a links shot that holds the key to major glory in next month’s Open.
The Holywood star hit a sensational 155-yard six-iron to six feet into a howling gale at the seventh to set up a birdie that gives him an outside title chance in the Irish Open
And after signing for a 69 that left him seven behind leader Gregory Bourdy on five under, he reckons he’s close to his brilliant best again.
After making just his second cut from his last six starts, he insisted: “I’m definitely close. I definitely feel like I’ve made a couple of big strides forward since the US Open and as long as I continue to work on it and keep doing the right things then I’m right on track.
“What really left me those last few weeks was ball striking, which is what I really do well. So it’s just trying to get back to making your strengths as strong as possible and for me that’s driving it well, hitting good iron shots and giving yourself chances for birdies.
“This is going to be my last tournament before the Open at Lytham so playing in a tournament like this with conditions like this on this golf course can only be good.”
He was even more pleased about his wonder-shot at the seventh which could help him win the Claret Jug in three weeks’ time.
Rory said: “It was probably the best shot I hit all day. It was only a 155 yards and to have a ball under control like that is something I’m working on.
“Seeing a shot like that gives me the confidence to know that I can play well in the wind.”
McIlroy said at last year’s Open in Sandwich that he was a fair weather golfer.
But he’s been working with coach Michael Bannon on the shots he needs to win an Open title and reckons he’s close to his best form again.
Asked if he could have played that shot a year ago, he said: “No, probably not. I would probably have tried to hit a hard seven in there and drive it low instead of smoothing it like that and taking a bit of the spin off.
“It’s actually a shot I’ve been working on with Michael, trying to control it a bit more with your body turn. It’s something that I’ve been working on for Lytham.”
The Ulster star has never asked top wind experts for advice, believing he’s always known had to play in tough conditions.
He said: “I’ve always been one to try and figure it out for myself and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve grown up in the wind so it shouldn’t be an issue.”