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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Phil Casey

Sir Nick Faldo urges Rory McIlroy to act like he ‘owns the ring’ at 151st Open

PA Archive

Sir Nick Faldo has urged Rory McIlroy to act like he “owns the ring” as he bids to end his lengthy major drought.

McIlroy travelled to Hoylake on Sunday afternoon following a brilliant victory in the Genesis Scottish Open, where he birdied the last two holes to edge out home favourite Robert MacIntyre.

The world number two has not tasted victory in a major championship since the 2014 US PGA, a win which came a month after he had lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool.

Two of Faldo’s Open titles came at the same venue and the six-time major winner believes McIlroy should behave as if he is the defending champion this week.

“Yeah, why not?” Faldo said. “It’s like saying ‘I own the ring, you ain’t gonna knock me down’.

“I felt that way when I came back to Muirfield in 1992 after winning in 1987. I was playing well, I was world number one, one of the favourites and all that and I thought ‘yeah, this is my spot, I’m gonna defend winning at Muirfield’.

“He’s got to be feeling good going back to somewhere he’s won before. He’s playing well. I think the most important thing is he just wants to be a golfer right now, give me a bit of space, let me breathe, let me just go and play.

“He’s one of the top few players in the world and it’s probably a nice feeling for him – he knows if he plays really well he knows the names he’s got to beat.”

Thirty-four majors have been staged since McIlroy’s last victory, with Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson all winning multiple titles and 18 different players tasting victory once, including a 50-year-old Phil Mickelson and an injury-ravaged Tiger Woods.

McIlroy has had to settle for commendable consistency, recording 19 top-10s and finishing no worse than eighth in all four majors in 2022, although genuine chances to win on the back nine on Sunday have been relatively scarce.

In last year’s Open McIlroy led by two at the turn before being overhauled by an inspired Cameron Smith.

A month ago he shared the lead in the final round of the US Open after a birdie on the first, but failed to make another and finished a shot behind Wyndham Clark, while his only dropped shot came after a poor wedge on the par-five 14th.

“I was doing the TV and the number of times I would say this must be so demoralising, he hits it 320 yards and then hits a wedge to 60 feet and three-putts it,” Faldo added.

“That’s such a killer to a pro. If he avoids that, if his bad wedge was to 20ft, then you’re laughing.

“That’s got to be his goal, really hone that short game and somehow trick himself and just imagine you’re 16 again and this is the most important tournament in my life, I’ve got a chance to win an Open; try and find that kind of motivation.

“Nine years is a long time, not many players go nine years [between major wins] but he’s so talented. It’s not like his game’s gone downhill.

“If he can find a way to almost hit the reset button, he’s still in his prime age; he’s just got to find that little bit of trust and determination. Can you fend off everybody else?

“You’ve got three days playing against yourself before you then take on the rest of the guys. I’ve got kind of a good vibe. I think he could pull another one out. I think he has a hell of a chance.”

:: Watch The Open live from July 20-23 exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf and NOW.

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