Rory McIlroy is relishing the title defence he never had in the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
McIlroy led from start to finish to win the 2014 Open at Royal Liverpool, but was prevented from attempting to retain the Claret Jug on the Old Course the following year after suffering an ankle injury playing football.
That means it is 12 years since the world number two last contested an Open at St Andrews, when he started with a brilliant 63, slumped to a second round of 80 in terrible weather and fought back to finish in a tie for third.
“I can’t go into The Open approaching it like I’ve got unfinished business at this golf course,” McIlroy told TheOpen.com. “You know I feel like there’s enough pressure on me anyway without putting more on myself.
“But it’s one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long, long time – 12 years. I want to just make sure that I’m in the best possible shape to go there.
“I’m playing well, I’m playing some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. I’ve played well in the majors this year without getting the win, but I’ve contended in all of them really. So it’s a good opportunity.”
McIlroy carded a closing 64 to finish runner-up to Scottie Scheffler in the Masters and was eighth in the US PGA and fifth in the US Open, the latter performance coming a week after his victory in the Canadian Open.
“I have maybe something to prove to myself and other people, but the way I’m playing I feel like I’m going in there with just as good a chance I’ve had at an Open since I can remember,” McIlroy added.
“Even the Open that I won in 2014 seems like a long time ago now as well. So I would love to get my hands on another Claret Jug. Everyone talks about winning an Open Championship, and then winning an Open at St Andrews maybe means that little bit extra.
“St Andrews will feel like the defence I never had, and then hopefully I’m defending at Royal Liverpool again in 2023.”