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Rory McIlroy left wondering what might have been

Rory McIlroy reflected on what might have been after falling short in his latest Open challenge at Royal Birkdale.

The 2014 champion battled back from the loss of five shots over the opening six holes of his first round to finish on five under par.

As he signed for his closing 67 he was just one stroke off the clubhouse lead, at that point held by Li Haotong, and he felt he missed a number of opportunities to apply more pressure.

The world number four said: "As soon as I started off and saw what Haotong finished at I wanted to get at least level with him if not beat him, get in the clubhouse at six or seven under. I didn't quite get there.

"It's a lost opportunity. I felt like I had a chance to get in a few shots better than I did yesterday and I didn't.

"That would have put me a bit closer to the lead going out today and maybe I would have been able to put a bit of pressure on the guys in front of me.

"I was within four (of the lead) at one point, playing 13 or 14 and I thought with the two par fives coming up I had the chance to post a number and at least scare them a little bit.

"But that's how it goes. It's tough out there, it really is. It is tough coming in."

McIlroy won the last of his four major titles at the US PGA Championship almost three years ago.

He admits that feels "too long" for a player of his ambition although he realises he arrived at Birkdale this week in poor form after missing three of his previous four cuts.

The 28-year-old said: "One year feels like too long but these things happen.

"You look at Jack Nicklaus, he went through a stretch where he didn't win a major in three years.

"I'm not comparing myself to Jack but it's hard to win them, very hard. It's the reason why in this generation, excluding Tiger, no one's got above five.

"I feel like three years has been too long but at the same time I'm not going to rush it, I'm not going to stay impatient.

"It is a step in the right direction. Looking at what happened in the last few weeks, this is a lot better."

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