Rory McIlroy looked destined for a disastrous start to his Open Championship bid yesterday, but a stunning back-nine recovery — fuelled by some strong words from caddie JP Fitzgerald — has given him a platform to challenge the leaders today.
ate starter McIlroy saw US Major winners Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka set the clubhouse lead at 65, five under par — they were later joined by Matt Kuchar — before he teed off at Royal Birkdale, and if he had been offered a 71 when he teed off, he probably would have been insulted.
But after a horrible front nine which he covered in 39, five over par, the Holywood star was relieved to card four birdies on the back nine for a one-over-par 71.
What sparked his revival? His caddie Fitzgerald (right) read him the riot act.
“My caddie, JP, gave me a talking to. He said to me on the sixth tee, ‘You’re Rory McIlroy, what the f*** are you doing?’” McIlroy said. “I mumbled and said, ‘Whatever’. But it helped. It kept me positive. So he did a great job.
“That was big, he was just trying to remind me who I was, that I’d won this tournament before and not to feel any pressure and go out and play my game.
“I started playing my game and it was nice to make some birdies coming in. Thankfully I showed the character to hang tough when I needed to.”