Rory McIlroy wants to follow in the footsteps on Phil Mickelson next July. Yes, he wants to win the Scottish Open and The Open back-to-back, but if he does win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, he will have matched Mickelson by winning a 72-hole strokeplay event on a links course for the first time.
McIlroy won two national senior events as an amateur and seven provincial titles in different age categories in Ireland between 2002 and 2006.
But while three of those wins came on links courses, all were matchplay events.
He won back-to-back West of Ireland Championships at County Sligo Golf Club in Rosses Point in 2005 and 2006 — becoming the youngest winner aged 15 — and the 2006 Irish Amateur Close at The European Club in Co Wicklow.
While he came close, he didn't win the medal award to the leading qualifier in either of the three and in the two Irish Amateur Open Strokeplay Championships he played on links courses, he came closest to victory when he lost a three-hole aggregate playoff to Finland's Antti Ahokas at Portmarnock in 2006.
Even the year he shot a course record 61 in qualifying for the 2005 North of Ireland Amateur Open at Royal Portrush, he failed to go on and win one of Ireland's premier matchplay titles.
He had no luck in the big links strokeplay championships held in England, Scotland or Wales either, despite twice coming close to victory in the Lytham Trophy while in his Irish Open appearances on links courses he has finished tied 50th at County Louth (2009) and tied 10th at Royal Portrush.
As a professional, he has an enviable stroke average at St Andrews and yet he has never won the Alfred Dunhill Links Trophy.
He was beaten by two strokes by compatriot Michael Hoey in the 2011 edition, having finished third as a rookie in 2007, eighth in 2008, tied second in 2009 and 53rd in 2010.
As for The Open, he won the silver medal awarded to the leading amateur at Carnoustie in 2007 but as a professional, his results have generally been discreet.
While he opened with a 63 and eventually finished tied third in the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews, his best performance in his other five Opens as a professional is share of 25th behind Darren Clarke at Royal St George's in 2011.
Following his disappointing missed cut in last years Open at Muirfield, he vowed to prepare for this year's Open at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) by playing the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen the previous week (July 10-13).
That news was confirmed on Monday and if he didn't need any more encouragement, he pointed to Mickelson's stunning links double last year as a good reason to give it a go.
“I can think of no better preparation for The Open, especially on a respected course like Royal Aberdeen," he is quoted as saying in a press release. "There will also be so many similarities I can bring to the following week’s Open Championship...
“Phil winning the double last year made me realise that the Scottish Open is more than good preparation for The Open - he showed it was possible to win both weeks.
"The Scottish Open going back to a traditional links course was something that made a lot of sense”
“Yet you can play as much golf on links courses as you want, but until that’s in a competitive environment you can never tell how ready your game will be. It really is so important, then, to get some competitive golf on a true, challenging links."
Rory McIlroy's Amateur titles
- 2006 European Amateur Championship (Strokeplay), Biella Golf Club, Italy (parkland)
- 2006 Irish Amateur Close (Matchplay), The European Club (links)
- 2006 West of Ireland Amateur Open (Matchplay), Co Sligo (links)
- 2005 Irish Amateur Close (Matchplay), Westport (parkland)
- 2005 West of Ireland Amateur Open (Matchplay), Co Sligo (links)
- 2004 Irish Boys Amateur Open (Strokeplay), Castlebar (parkland)
- 2004 Irish Youths Amateur Close (Strokeplay), Clandeboye (parkland)
- 2004 Ulster Boys, (Matchplay), Holywood (Parkland)
- 2003 Ulster Boys, (Matchplay), Donaghadee (Links/parkland)
- 2002 Ulster Under 15 Boys, Shandon Park (Parkland)