Rory McIlroy is soon due to appear on a golf course for the first time since his dramatic collapse at this year’s US Open. After withdrawing from the Travelers Championship on the back of a tough final day at Pinehurst when the winning line was in sight, McIlroy’s private jet was spotted taking the golf superstar to Farnborough ahead of the Scottish Open.

While not quite home turf, will McIlroy find some creature comforts and perhaps better luck back in the UK at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick? McIlroy will head into the 2024 Scottish Open as the reigning champion, but there will be a bigger prize sitting on the horizon for the Northern Irish golfer: this month’s Open Championship.

Back-To-Back Bids at the Scottish Open

Given that McIlroy holds the current Scottish Open title, there will be much talk about a title defence. There’s almost unfair pressure on him because title defences in golf are notoriously difficult to pull off, so statistically the odds are completely against him.

Not since the Scottish Open was established in 1972 has a player managed back-to-back titles at the event. In fact, only two players in the history of the Scottish Open have won it more than once: Ernie Els (two) and Ian Woosnam (three).

However, on the flip side, if McIlroy were to put another title run together at what feels like the aptly named Renaissance Club, then it would temporarily shut out all the noise of his recent US Open disaster.

At last year’s Scottish Open, McIlroy scored -15 under par, which was enough for him to win by the narrowest of margins over home talent Robert MacIntyre. The fact that McIlroy played so well and still needed a stunning shot out of the top drawer at the death to win shows how difficult any potential repeat of the title is going to be.

Welcome Back, Rory

Rory McIlroy will be welcomed back to the Scottish Open where a ‘surprise’ is waiting for him: a plaque honouring his approach shot on the 18th from last year’s victory. McIlroy delivered a beauty with a 2 iron from 202 yards into strong 40mph winds, leaving the ball 11 feet from the pin. He duly converted the title-winning birdie putt.

The finish was all about that remarkable approach, and McIlroy himself even stated to club founder Jerry Sarvadi that “When I turn 80, it will be one of the five best shots I hit in my entire career.”

McIlroy’s Pinehurst Nightmare

Rory McIlroy let the 2024 US Open slip from his grasp. He was in prime position at Pinehurst, two up over Bryson DeChambeau with five holes to play. Playing ahead of his title rival on the course, McIlroy just needed to hold steady to get into the clubhouse first and keep all the pressure on the American.

McIlroy, who had been excellent all weekend, suddenly saw his short putting game desert him, bogeying three of the last four. On hole 16, he missed the hole from 2 feet 6 inches, and on the 18th to secure par and likely take things to a playoff, he missed from just under four feet.

To sum up the weight of the collapse, the miss on the 16th was the first time in 496 putts from within three feet that McIlroy had missed. As he skipped away from Pinehurst without talking to the media, the finish had clearly, and understandably, been crushing.

The Break

After the US Open, Rory McIlroy immediately pulled out of the following Travelers Championship. The intent was to go away and process the US Open result and get recharged for the Genesis Scottish Open and The Open later in July at Royal Troon.

Just what kind of headspace Rory McIlroy will be in at the Renaissance Club will be much speculated about. However, any putt that goes sliding by the cup will be heavily scrutinised, and if he is in contention down the back nine on Sunday, it will send pundits into a frenzy after what happened at the US Open.

Does he need the title at the 2024 Scottish Open? No. Does he need a good performance? Probably, yes – especially as it will be used as a confidence builder for Royal Troon.

152nd Open at Troon Bid

The Open Championship heads to Royal Troon this year for the 10th time. It’s the 152nd edition of the major overall, and irrespective of recent happenings, Rory McIlroy is going to be among the pack of favourites in South Ayrshire.

His performance at the US Open had more highs than lows, it’s worth remembering. His game off the tee was on point, and he kept his emotions superbly in check throughout the weekend, sustained momentum, and hit the middle of the fairway time and time again. So, the current form is there.

McIlroy has also won The Open Championship before, finishing two strokes clear of Rickie Fowler and Sergio García in 2014 at Royal Liverpool. Two years later in his first Open bid at Royal Troon, McIlroy went close, finishing with a 4-under T5 thanks to a brilliant surge on Sunday with a score of 67.

So, he will likely enjoy his return to the course, where a top-10 finish at the minimum is a realistic target. While that one previous effort at Royal Troon isn’t a lot to go on, he has consistency at The Open Championship overall. McIlroy has taken five top-six finishes in his last eight attempts at the major since winning the Claret Jug in 2014. It’s an excellent record and he is still one of the elite players in the world.

It is, therefore, perhaps a little unfair of a four-time major winner to be thought of as a nearly-man because of back-to-back runners-up spots at the US Open, plus other near misses, such as his 2022 runner-up spots at the Masters and the 2018 Open Championship.

Plenty To Play For In 2024

It can still be Rory’s year. There is that fourth major of 2024 to come, and the world’s number one spot at the end of the year is within reach. There’s the Tour Championship, which McIlroy won as recently as 2022 and three times in the last eight editions, giving him a chance to finish the season on a high.

McIlroy will continue fighting despite his recent high-profile blip. His career is not defined by one tournament and the collapse didn’t suddenly see him turn into a bad player. McIlroy’s result at the US Open pushed him up to number three in the FedEx Cup standings and to the second spot in the world rankings. The finish also stretched his run to six continuous top-15 finishes, with a couple of tournament wins secured in that run.

All players go through near-misses. There was Phil Mickelson’s wild finish at the 2006 US Open when he tried to be a hero and instead threw the title away. Golf legend Sam Snead blew a two-shot lead with three to play at the 1947 US Open. There was the agonising triple bogey by Jean van de Velde on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie at The Open Championship in 1999, while Ed Sneed lost three shots in his final three holes at the 1979 Masters to miss the title.

All golfers have days that they would rather forget, and McIlroy is no different, with such thin margins between success and failure in sport. It’s the responses to those setbacks that ultimately define champions. McIlroy is a champion golfer and has overcome setbacks before, and there’s plenty of reason for him to look even further forward.

The Special 2025

There has to be one big future event on the mind of Rory McIlroy, and that is redemption in another home Open Championship next year. All being well, he will hit the links at Royal Portrush in County Antrim in 2025, where a 16-year-old McIlroy once set a course record of 61.

After a 68-year wait, the famous tournament returned to Northern Ireland in 2019 when one of McIlroy’s fellow countrymen, Shane Lowry, emerged as the winner. The big homecoming for McIlroy himself petered out early as he missed the cut at the 2019 Open Championship. The damage was done in a disastrous 79 first round, which included a quadruple-bogey 8 on the very first hole.

However, this set up a grandstand second-round performance by McIlroy, who somehow played his way into a chance of making the cut. He only needed a birdie from one of his final two holes to make the weekend, but he fell just short despite the charged atmosphere. The extent of his fight-back saw him match the new course record of 65 after Royal Portrush’s redesign for The Open Championship.

This snapshot encapsulates Rory McIlroy perfectly. There have been tremendous highs and many lows throughout his career, but there’s always something special happening when McIlroy hits the tee.

If you want a chance at catching McIlroy at Portrush in 2025, the Ticket Ballot for The 153rd Open is open until Wednesday 31st July at 3:00pm BST. There’s a high demand for those tickets, and applications for the ballot are open to members of the R&A’s digital online club, called the One Club.

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