Rory admits head problem with freaky Friday

Rory McIlroy has never felt more prepared for The Open but he admits his freaky Friday form is getting into his head.

The former world No 1 has had seven nightmares this season when he’s shot 40 or more for nine holes.

But with six of those seven disasters coming on Friday — the most recent of them just last week when he followed an opening 64 in the Scottish Open with a horrific 78 — he admits he’s got a major mental problem to tackle.

Asked if his Friday scoring trend is starting to mess with his head, he said: “Yes, I think it is. And it’s a trend I’d like to stop this week.

“I think I just got it into my head and I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a score.

“I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, s there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday.

“As I say, I think I just got into my head and I need to go out and pretend like it's a Thursday again.

“I have been caught out by a bad stretch of holes at every tournament this year. I just need to eliminate that. It's easier to eliminate the bad stuff than find the good stuff.”

McIlroy has the best first round record in golf, averaging 68.15 this year 

But his second-round scoring average of 72.23 is one of the worst of anyone on the major tours.

Last week’s disaster in Scotland was not his first reverse of the year.

He followed a 63 with a 78 in the Memorial Tournament and adding that 78 to his course record 64 just last week was not what he needed coming into The Open.

To put his performances in perspective, McIlroy is 51 under par in the first round this year, 19 under in the third round and 20 under on the final day.

But in the second round he’s an eye-popping nine over par.

At a loss to explain how he can halt the freaky Friday syndrome, he said: “I don't know, but it's more going out and not thinking about it and really trying to get off it to a solid start.

“You’ve got to just play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way. 

“So hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores.”

Despite his Friday meltdown in Aberdeen, where he tied for 14th, he insists he’s coming into The Open better prepared than ever before after opting for competitive action on a links.

“I'm glad I played up in Scotland last week, definitely,” he said. “I feel as prepared as I ever have coming into an Open Championship, just because four competitive rounds on links, and playing in some different conditions up there.

“I’m a little disappointed with how I finished. I mean, I had three good rounds, and obviously one not-too-good round.

“But the game feels in good shape. I feel like I got a lot of good links practice last week, which will hopefully help this week.”

With a US Open and a US PGA on his mantelpiece, McIlroy wants to add the third leg of the career Grand Slam to his CV.

He said: “It would be great to put the name on the Claret Jug one day. If I was to win my third Major here, it would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam, as well.

“Not many golfers have done that, either. So it would be special. It would be very important. 

“Hopefully by the time I hang up my boots, I'd love to be able to get my name on that trophy.”

Only six legends of the game have won all four Majors.

Bobby Jones won the old version of the Grand Slam when he captured the US Open four times, The Open three times, the US Amateur five times and one British Amateur.

He won all four in 1930 while Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen have won all four of the modern majors at least once.

McIlroy badly wants to join that club but while he won three amateur events as an amateur on links terrain — two West of Ireland titles and one Irish Close — he’s got just one Top 10 in The Open.

Ironically, that came at St Andrews in 2010, when he followed an opening 63 with an 80.

And he admits that he has to get back to his roots and learn how to cope better with everything a links can throw at him.

“Because I played so much links golf in my amateur days, I was probably more used to playing the shots that you need on links courses,” he said. 

“But I guess when you go on Tour and you play, especially you play the majority of your golf in the U.S., you start to neglect some of the shots that you might need in conditions like this. 

“So I don't think I've evolved that much as a links player, but I've been trying, especially the last few weeks, to really practice hard on some of the shots that I might need this week.

“Hopefully I will evolve as a links player and go forward and improve.

“The Open Championship is a tournament that's very important to me and my record in it hasn't been as good as I'd like. I'd love to improve on that.”