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Second-round woes all in my head - McIlroy

Alex Perry at Royal Liverpool
July 15, 2014 « Woods: Anything but victory is unacceptable | WILL TEST Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Rory McIlroy is a combined 60 shots better off this season over first rounds than second rounds © Getty Images
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It's safe to say Rory McIlroy has not had the Friday Feeling this year.

The two-time major champion heads into this week's Open Championship with a record of playing every opening round this year in a combined 51-under par.

22 years of hurt

Sir Nick Faldo was England's last Open champion in 1992 © PA Photos
  • It's been more than two decades since an Englishman won the Open Championship, so Alex Perry looks at three players who could end that hoodoo in Hoylake.
  • Click here for more

His second rounds, however, have not quite lived up to the standard and stand at a combined nine-over. At last week's Scottish Open he followed up a first-day course-record 63 with a galling 78 - including the seventh time he's played nine holes in 40 or more shots.

McIlroy's prognosis? "It's all in my head."

And his prescription? "I need to go out and pretend like it's a Thursday."

He added: "I may be putting a bit too much pressure on myself, going out on Fridays and trying to back up a good score. I have no problem shooting a low one on Thursday, there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday. I think I just got into my head.

"This week it's more going out and thinking about it and really trying to play a few solid holes and get your round underway that way. So hopefully I can start to turn that second-round thing around and shooting some better scores.

"It just seems like I've been caught out this year by a bad stretch of holes every tournament. I shot three-over for the front nine at the BMW PGA Championship on the Friday, but recovered shooting four-under on the back nine to finish under par.

'I'm happy,' insists Rory

Rory McIlroy during practice on Tuesday © Getty Images
  • Perhaps predictably, McIlroy was questioned about his personal life.
  • McIlroy, who broke off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in the build up to the BMW PGA Championship in May, said: "I'm just focusing on my golf at the moment, and making that the No.1 priority.
  • "Am I in a better place? I'm happy with everything that's going on. I've got a big stretch of tournaments coming up, with this week and then back over to the States for the World Golf Championship and then the PGA and all the FedExCup play-offs and the Ryder Cup.
  • "So there's a lot to keep me busy and just looking forward to that stretch of golf coming up. So yeah, I'm happy."

"It's easier to eliminate some of the bad stuff than it is to try and find some of the good stuff, because the good stuff is in there, obviously, with some of the low scores I'm shooting. I just try to need to keep it a little tighter when things aren't 100 percent on the course."

Like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy headed to Hoylake early to get some extra practice rounds in before flying to Aberdeen. And he admits he's looking forward to the challenge that Hoylake presents this week.

"I won at Wentworth, and everybody knows it isn't my favorite course in the world," said McIlroy. "It always helps when you see a course and you're really comfortable with it and it fits your eye, but I don't think it really matters if you play well in any given week.

"The real pleasing thing is, even though I haven't won as much as I'd like to the last couple of years or 18 months, when I have got myself into contention, I've really played well.

"If I have given myself a chance to win a tournament, I've played well under the pressure. So hopefully I'll get myself in a position like that again this week.

"It would be very special to win her. I remember watching a lot of the Opens on TV growing up and even going to a couple of them as a kid. It's the oldest and has the richest history of all of them and it would be great to put my name on the Claret Jug one day.

"It would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam, as well, and not many golfers have done that."

'Best ever? Me...'

  • Padraig Harrington once described Tiger Woods' win at Hoylake in 2006 as the best major victory he had ever seen.
  • Does McIlroy agree? "My two were pretty impressive," he joked. "But seriously, I guess it's either that or Tiger's wins at Pebble in 2000, where he won by 15, or his first at the Masters in '97."

If McIlroy is to lift the Claret Jug for the first time, he will have to get past a determined Woods, who revealed earlier in the day that "anything but first place is unacceptable". But McIlroy is pleased to see his friend and Nike stablemate back on the course.

He said: "Tiger has been the face of our game for nearly 20 years, so to have him playing and have him back is important and obviously to have him competing.

"It's a good opportunity, as well, for some of the other guys to stand up and be counted and win tournaments, either in his absence or if he's coming back and isn't quite back to 100 percent form. But it's great to see him back. It's great to see him healthy for a start.

"He always adds a lot of buzz and excitement for the tournament. It's great to have him here this week."

Alex Perry tweets at @AlexPerryESPN

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