Rory McIlroy hoping to find a spark at the Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy hopes to put a disappointing Irish Open behind him when he tees it up at the Scottish Open this week
Rory McIlroy hopes to put a disappointing Irish Open behind him when he tees it up at the Scottish Open this week

RORY McIlroy is more used to private jets than public transport, but hopes a ferry trip to Scotland can help recreate the most successful spell of his career.

McIlroy is making his first appearance in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open since 2014, when he travelled to Royal Aberdeen on the back of a missed cut in the Irish Open and went on to finish 14th.

The following week he led from start to finish to win the Open Championship at Hoylake and followed up with victories in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA in consecutive starts.

Three years on, the 28-year-old has made the trip to Dundonald Links after again making an early exit from the Irish Open, with next week’s Open at Royal Birkdale – less than 30 miles from Hoylake – very much on his mind.

“We’ve done that trip a lot and it brings back some good memories,” McIlroy (right) said of his two-hour ferry journey to Scotland.

“My dad was part of a golfing society when I was like 10 or 11. I remember we got the boat from Belfast and my dad said to me, ‘Do you want to go and play snooker?’

“I said, ‘Yeah! Let’s go play!’ He goes, ‘Rory, it’s a boat, the balls are going to move.’ I sort of make that joke every time I go on now. I say, ‘Do you want to go and play pool?’

“I actually got the boat in 2014 and drove up to Aberdeen and then drove down to Hoylake and that worked out pretty well.”

McIlroy has played just nine events this year due to a rib injury and has missed the cut in two of his last three starts, but the four-time major winner insists there is no comparison to his struggles to adapt to new equipment in 2013.

“It feels nowhere near ’13,” McIlroy added. “I really struggled with my golf swing in ’13. I turned up to Muirfield (for the Open) and I was completely lost.

“I wasn’t in a really good frame of mind there. I just wasn’t in a great place. This year I’ve just got married, I’m in a great place personally. I think my golf game is really close to being where it needs to be.”

One aspect of McIlroy’s game which remains a work in progress is his putting, but memories of 2014 could again come in handy as the Holywood man tries to focus more on feel than technique.

“In Aberdeen in 2014 I found something in my putting that week, a little key that I brought not just to Hoylake, but to the rest of that summer and it worked well,” he said.

“You never know when you’re going to stumble upon these little epiphanies or when a light bulb goes off in your head.

“I was using a line on the ball, like I am now, but sometimes getting a little too focused on trying to line it up perfectly. So I went away from the line the weekend of Aberdeen and just focused on a spot two inches in front of the ball.

“I said to myself, just roll it over that spot. It sort of clears your mind a little bit and it frees you up. My mechanics are good enough to start the ball on line and it’s all about getting myself in the right frame of mind to hit a putt.”