McIlroy focussing on his focus, not 18 majors. Admits he "didn't sleep very well" before final round

McIlroy focussing on his focus, not 18 majors. Admits he "didn't sleep very well" before final round

This... to win The Open. Picture Eoin Clarke,

So what now Rory? Tiger's record of 14? Jack's 18?

"No. I never thought about it. It's never been a goal, it's never been a target of mine," Rory McIlroy said of Nicklaus' tally of 18 majors in a phone interview with Newstalk in Dublin. "I've alway said, when I won my first major, I was just trying to focus on my second. And when I won my second, I just wanted to win my third.

"Now that I've won my third, I just want to win my fourth. That's the way I want to keep it. Putting a number on it just gives you more pressure, more expectation. I don't think it's fair on myself. If I can just keep adding to the number regularly...  I don't have a set number I want to get to."

It was Jägermeister that went into the Claret Jug in Hoylake on Sunday night and champagne on Monday as he celebrated at home in Belfast with his pals. With his head more or less clear, Rory McIlroy met Northern Ireland's political masters for a photocall at Stormont on Tuesday, but without the Claret Jug, which he said needed "a good clean".

Perhaps the explosive aftermath of a Jägermeister/champagne combo would have posed a security risk for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

But before he heads back to the US to prepare for Akron later this week, the new Open champion gave phone-in radio interviews to Mike & Mike at ESPN and Off The Ball on Denis O'Brien's Newstalk in Dublin, where the common themes were his battle to become stronger mentally, his quest for a "B Game" and how he learned from the mental errors he made in the 2011 Masters.

For me to play golf at this level is all mental... A lot of guys can go out and shoot 65/66 but it’s being able to do it when you need to.
— Rory McIlroy

Both interviews focussed mainly on the mental challenges of the game and his ability to overcome them on Sunday and going forward.

Asked by Mike & Mike if he felt confident sleeping on a six-stroke lead or had doubts as his head hit the pillow on Saturday night, McIlroy said:

"Honestly, I didn't sleep very well on Saturday night, which his normal in a way. You are a day away from achieving a lifelong dream. It's a big deal. I know. I've been on the right side of coming back from six shots behind and been on the wrong side of losing big leads as well.... I wasn't taking anything for granted. Any thought can derail you, any loss of focus can be two shots gone right there... I know when I stay in my process and my golf is good and I play to my capabilities, then tournaments like this are what happens.

"For me, to play golf at this level is all mental... A lot of guys can go out and shoot 65/66, but it's being able to do it when you need to. And I feel like I am getting better at that."

The Newstalk interview touched on the mental game more than any other aspect of McIlroy's win but began by asking what it feels like to stand over a putt to win The Open.

"Its funny. Whenever I was younger and stood over a putt on the putting green at Holywood Golf Club to win the Open Championship, I never had one as easy at the one I had on Sunday."

The strength of McIlroy's A game was there for all to see in is eight-stroke wins in the US Open and the US PGA in 2011 and 2012. But when asked about the troublesome Freaky Fridays, psychologists or improving his B game, he told Newstalk:

"I think being mentally stronger is what is needed for that little problem. If I can be as mentally strong, week in, week out, as I was in The Open, the bad rounds or bad weeks will definitely be avoided.

"It's all a mental thing for me. The physical ability is always there but it's being able to bring that out in myself.  If I can get my head right, as I feel I have, then tournaments like The Open last week will happen a lot more regularly."

Mental guru? No thanks, Rory says. 

"There are little (mental) exercises you can do. I have always tried to stay away from psychologists because I feel if you have something that works for you then you have to go with it. It is very individual. It's your own mind, you own thoughts. It's hard for someone to tell you what to think."