McIlroy excited for Irish Open links swing; says winning "a major a year" is achievable

McIlroy excited for Irish Open links swing; says winning "a major a year" is achievable
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is excited about the links swing that has been created with the Irish Open clinching a July date before the Scottish Open and The Open.

Speaking in New Jersey, where he is trying to keep his frustration at bay and convert his consistent play into a fifth major win in the PGA Championship at Baltrusrol, McIlroy looks at the move to Portstewart next July as a huge move for the Dubai Duty Free sponsored event.

"Yeah, I'm really excited about it," McIlroy said. "We've been working hard with The European Tour over the last couple years to try and find suitable venues and a suitable date for The Irish Open.

"We sort of knew a long time ago that Portstewart was going to be probably where we were going to go play it in 2017.

"To get that date right before the Scottish is huge. To play a round of links golf leading into the Open, hopefully we can attract some marquis names to come over and play. With it being at the start of July, hopefully, fingers crossed, we can get some decent weather.

"I think it can only be good for the event. I'm really excited for it. I'm excited that The European Tour have worked with us and helped us getting that date and getting suitable venues going forward. I'm excited for Portstewart next year."

As for the season's final major, McIlroy gave himself a B for his play so far this year but added that he could take that grade to A+ with a win on Sunday.

The course at Baltusrol suits his game down to the ground with big greens also suiting his usually excellent lag-putting.

"Everything is straight out in front of you. There's no real hidden secrets to it. And I feel that's what really let's me excel. I feel like I can play my game in PGA Championships. I can hit driver off the tee the most time, and from there, if I drive it well, I feel like I have a big advantage.

"It's all been a tournament that's set up well for me. I've had some good finishes here. Obviously the wins in 2012 and 2014, but then I've had a couple of top threes, a couple of Top-10s, apart from that, as well. So it's been a good tournament for me...
" I think two big things this week. Driving, you've got to drive the ball well. It's a long golf course for a par 70, and the two par 5s coming at the end of the course. You've got to drive the ball in the fairway, and pretty long, as well. Looking at the scorecard there, there's a lot of par 4s that are sort of up in the 480-, 500-yard mark. You've got to drive it well.

"I think the greens are so big, as well. You're going to see a lot of guys hit a lot of greens. I think lag putting is going to be a big thing. If you have good speed on the greens, I think that's going to be a big help. So I think most weeks, if you drive it well and putt well, you're going to do okay."

The 27-year old world No 4 has just one win to his credit this year, which came in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

But he has decently in two majors, rallying to 10th in the Masters and tied fifth in The Open.

He gave himself a high mark for The Open, where he felt that the best he could have done was third considering he was on the wrong side of the draw.

McIlroy doesn't usually speak about his goals but he all but said he wants to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major wins.

When asked if winning a major a year was achievable in the modern era with so much strength in depth, he didn't hold back.

"Yeah, I'd love to sit here and say I'm going to win a major every year for the next -- I could retire at 40 and be very happy.

"Yeah, I think it is realistic, yeah, I really do. If you can win one of the four every year; if you're that good, you can do that. I think it is realistic. I think that is achievable. We've seen in the past that is achievable. That's the benchmark. That's what you're trying to get to. It's hard. As you said, it's so deep, but I guess '11, '12, '13, '14, in that stretch of four years, I averaged a major a year.

"So there's no reason to think that I can't do that for the foreseeable future. Obviously that's what my benchmark is, and I feel like I can attain that. I have to play my best golf, and sometimes it's hard to come up with your best golf each and every week. But I definitely think it's attainable."

If his putter behaves, there's no reason to believe he can't win that fifth major though his state of mind will be key.

"I don't know, neutral," he said when asked to sum up his season in a word.. "Sort of a little bit of neutral. I feel there's been times where I got a little bit of momentum, and then sort of got set back a little bit.

"It's sort of been a little stop/start in a way. But it's hard. It's hard to like stay -- not stay positive. I'm trying to stay as positive as I can. I feel like I am positive because my game is in good shape. But I guess just maybe running out of patience a little bit and trying to make it happen.

"I don't know if there's one word to describe this year, that's sort of a hard question. But I think you get a sense of how I've felt about the year and trying to get better and trying to get my name in the mix, and hopefully I can do that this week."