Rory McIlroy finished in a tie for 46th

Credit: PA

Another major, another disappointing result for Rory McIlroy. It’s almost seven years since the Northern Irishman last won a major, something that would have seemed inconceivable when he burst onto the golfing scene by winning the 2011 US Open.

He finished his Sunday at Royal St George’s one over par, meaning he turned in a scorecard of 280 for the weekend, exactly level par. It represents a truly average result which belies a roller-coaster weekend in which McIlroy played some majestic shots but too often these were counteracted by some woeful mistakes.

“There are a lot of birdies in there but a lot of bogeys, too,” McIlroy told reporters. “I think it’s just more the bogey avoidance and the mental errors, because I’ve made 17 birdies this week, which is more than enough to challenge to win this golf tournament. It’s just that I make too many mistakes, and that’s the part that I need to try to get right.”

“There is enough good stuff in there to contend at these golf tournaments, but I’m just not allowing myself to do that with some of the mistakes I’m making.”

Of greater concern to the 32-year-old will have been his errant play from the teebox over the weekend. He found the fairway just 50 per cent of the time on Saturday and 57 per cent of the time on Sunday, well below the course average 62 per cent and 63 per cent on each day respectively.

This was no better illustrated than his efforts on the very first hole. A wayward drive with the iron saw him in instant trouble in the rough. In his efforts to rescue his round almost before it had started, McIlroy took a wild swing that ended up shanked off behind the grandstand. He was forced to take an immediate drop, costing him a bogey right out of the gate.

“I need to look at the positives, and the positives are I made enough birdies this week to contend in the golf tournament. I made too many mistakes. I think that’s going to happen a little bit when you’re trying to do some things a little bit differently,” he said, as he trudged back into the clubhouse at T46.

“I need to do a better job of just maybe being a little bit more disciplined out there.”

It has been seven years since McIlroy last won a major

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

In March, the four-time major champion hired Pete Cowen to come in and fix his ailing swing. His short-iron game was in need of particular attention, and though there were signs of progress over the course of the Open, too often McIlroy short game proved wayward. 

His double bogey on ten highlighted this, as some haphazard iron play saw him struggle to reach the green. There was a clear desire to attack the back nine, where he had disintegrated 24 hours before. Back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 helped him recover some pride, particularly 13, a hole on which he had turned in a poor bogey the day before. 

But the over-aggression on the tenth cost him dearly as he lacked balance in his approach, something McIlroy himself admitted to the assembled press corps post-round.

“Some weeks you might need a little bit more indifference and some weeks you might need to be a little bit more aggressive,” he admitted. “For me at the minute it’s just the process of trying to work my way back to the sort of form and the sort of the level that I know I can play at.”

“Whether that’s trying to be a little too aggressive from bad spots or putting myself in bad spots to begin with, but it’s just a matter of just trying to iron out the mistakes.”

While McIlroy was never in contention for the Claret Jug coming into the final round, he understood the importance of posting a good score on which he can build with the all-important Ryder Cup looming. McIlroy remains in the automatic qualification spots, but will know he must pick his game up if Europe are to retain their crown on enemy turf.

“There are a few things to concentrate on before the Ryder Cup. FedExCup in the States is a huge goal of everyone’s. I guess that’s the real next big thing for me,” McIlroy said, refusing to get drawn in too far on the topic.

“Obviously the Olympics are in a week’s time. You know, I want to just try to get on a good stretch of golf. I’ve probably got four tournaments between now and the Ryder Cup, and I sort of just want to focus on them first before I turn my attention to that.”

Lee Westwood: I need to get back to that ‘don’t give a s— attitude’ to break my major duck

by James Corrigan at Royal St George’s

On the Sunday when Lee Westwood finally broke the record for the most majors played without a win, the veteran Englishman had some concerning words for the European Tour. Westwood doubts he will be able to show the same dedication to his home circuit that has established him as a cherished everstay. 

Westwood, 48, looked and sounded exhausted when he trundled in with a last-round 72 and a two-over total at the Open. His tie for 59th here at Royal St George’s means that it is 88 majors without a title and that leaves him behind Jay Haas on the all-time table. 

To the ignorant this represents a failure, but to those who understand what it takes simply to qualify for a major – especially if you are not blessed with a long exemption for having won a major – then this is actually a fine achievement. 

“Just think, a lot of people play their whole careers just to play in one major championship – I’ve played 88,” Westwood said. “It shows I’ve been a good player for a long, long time. There’s not many people who have played in as many major championships as me, whether they’ve won one or not. That record’s a nice thing to have.”

At 29th in the world, Westwood is all but guaranteed to get in at least next year’s Masters, so he is not done yet. And Phil Mickelson’s win as a 50-year-old at the US PGA two months ago still inspires hope that Westwood can get over the line after nine top-threes in his 26 years of playing the majors. Yet he realises he will have to preserve his energy if he is to have a chance and not overplay as he did this year.

“This sums up my major year, really,” he said. “I’m almost trying too hard and it’s not happening. I’ve played too much and just need to be more professional, sit down and get my schedule right. Yet it is tough when you are trying to play two tours. 

“That is why my results are going to suffer on the European Tour. I’m down at around 80 on the Race to Dubai standings and I won it last year. I’m only playing two more events on the European money list, so I need a good result in Memphis or the BMW PGA Championship to try just to get into the Dubai finale or I’m obviously going to be playing more in the States. 

Lee Westwood has now gone 88 majors without a win

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“At 48, nearly 49, I just can’t do everything. I certainly won’t end up playing both and playing 30 tournaments a year, it is not fair on my body. I’ve played as many tournaments at this point in the year than I have done over the whole year the last three or four seasons. I try to keep it to 22 and I think I’m up to 17 or 18 already. It is just too much.”

There were a few factors that persuaded Westwood to pack his calendar. “I’ve had a good season in America,” he said. “I had those back-to-back second places at Bay Hill and The Players in March and in all I’ve earned in the region of $5 million to $6 million which is the most I’ve earned in my career. When you start doing that and get good results you get consumed and just want to play more.”

Then there was Covid-19. “I basically didn’t want to be in Britain with all the restrictions over here and while I was in America I thought I might as well play,” he said. “But it just takes its toll. My main focus is the next two weeks and just relaxing and not even thinking about golf. I just feel consumed thinking about golf whereas the last three or four years I haven’t really been bothered. I’m too bothered at the moment. I need to get back to that ‘don’t give a s— attitude’.

Westwood knows that is easier said than done because there is a Ryder Cup in September. He had previously seemed certain of automatically qualifying for a record-equalling 11th appearance for Europe (matching Sir Nick Faldo), his position in the top nine is now in danger. Westwood will play at the WGC event in Memphis and then through the FedEx Cup play-offs and then Wentworth, before a week off and the Ryder Cup. 

It is a demanding run and one for which he requires complete rest and recuperation over this crucial fortnight. “I’ve just got to put up my feet and totally switch off,” he said. “It’s what I should be doing at my age.”