Two-time major winner Rory McIlroy yesterday spent some time outlining how he plans to combat his debilitating second-day syndrome, but inconsistencies in the argument suggested he needs to convince himself more than he does the world’s media.
The Northern Irishman seems to have developed an unhelpful habit of being great on Thursday and poor on Friday.
Last week at the Scottish Open he carded a course-record 64 on the first day at Royal Aberdeen but followed up with a 78.
A repeat at Royal Liverpool this week would destroy his hopes of winning the Claret Jug as the weather is expected to take a turn for the worse on Friday and anyone not on top of their game is likely to be blown off course.
“It’s one (problem) that I’d like to try to stop this week. I think it is,” said McIlroy, whose first-round scoring average of just under 68 leads the PGA Tour but his second-round average is almost five shots worse.
“It’s more 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; there should be no reason I have any problem shooting a low one on Friday.
“I think I just got into my head. It’s something that I need to go out and pretend like it’s a Thursday again or go out and just....I don’t know, but it’s more going out and thinking about it and really trying to get off to a solid start instead of just going out and trying.
“Just play and play a few solid holes and get your round under way that way. Hopefully this week I can start to turn that second-round thing around and start shooting some better scores.
“It just seems like I’ve just been caught out this year by a bad stretch of holes every tournament.
“I shot three over for the front nine at Wentworth on the Friday (on his way to winning the BMW PGA Championship) but recovered shooting four under on the back nine.
“So if I can just eliminate that – I think it’s easier to eliminate some of the bad stuff than it is to try to 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 per cent on the golf course.”
Although McIlroy may talk about trying to keep a tight rein on things when the going gets tough, he is still reluctant to play an entirely conservative game.
While Tiger Woods will again shun his driver as he did on his way to victory on this course in 2006 – he famously used the club just once in 72 holes – the Northern Irishman will continue to look to blast it out there on some of the longer holes.
“He (Woods) played the course the way he felt comfortable playing the course and he obviously has the talent and was good enough to be able to make it work,” McIlroy said.
“I think with the course conditions, I don’t think it’s going to be an option to hit an iron off every tee box.
“I think you’re going to have to be slightly aggressive off the tee and take some things on, especially as we’ve got four par-fives that are all reachable.
“The ball is not going to run too much on the fairways and everyone is different, but I feel like you’ve got to be slightly aggressive off the tees here this week, just because it’s not as firm as it was back in 2006.
“I think that the driver is one of the best clubs in my bag and I do hit it well and when I’m on I can take advantage of that length and make golf courses pretty short for myself.
“You just have to make your game plan so that you’re comfortable with it and you don’t deviate from it. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to the length that I hit it (having smashed one drive 425 yards in Scotland last week).
“Yeah, I guess I hit it long off the tee but not always straight so I’d rather hit it 290, 300 (yards) in the fairway every time – that would make life much easier.”
Woods was yesterday asked what an acceptable finishing position would be on his return to major championship action, and predictably replied: “First,” adding: “That’s always the case.”
The 38-year-old had a back operation in March to relieve the pain caused by a pinched nerve which meant he missed the Masters for the first time in his career and the US Open at Pinehurst, while he missed the cut in his comeback event at Congressional at the end of last month.
“It feels great to come back to Hoylake and to this venue,” Woods said. “It meant a lot to me in my life at the time. That (2006) was a very emotional week.”
His victory came just two months after the death of Woods’s father Earl.