McIlroy: Don't write off Tiger
Rory McIlroy believes it would be foolish to write off Tiger Woods' chances of winning the Open next week, although he thinks Hoylake could also provide one of his best chances of lifting the Claret Jug.
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Woods won the Open the last time it was staged at Royal Liverpool in 2006, but has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and only returned to action last month following back surgery on March 31.
And even though the former world number one missed the cut in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional and has not played competitively since, McIlroy is not ruling out a miraculous performance from the 14-time major winner.
"We have all witnessed what Tiger has been able to do over his career, whether that's come back from injury and win, come back from any sort of off-course stuff and win," McIlroy said ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
"I mean, he won the US Open on one leg, really on one leg.
"Is it foolish for people to write him off? I would say so. If he's playing and he's competing, he's got as good a chance as any. I wouldn't write him off completely. I still think he can do things that we have never seen from any other golfer.
"I read some of the comments from a couple weeks ago, he said that he felt great and he hit some good drives. So if he feels 100 per cent healthy and his doctors give him the go ahead, then why not."
McIlroy's own Open record veers from the sublime to the ridiculous, with an opening 63 at St Andrews in 2010 followed by a second round of 80, albeit in terrible weather and subsequent rounds of 69 and 68 meant he eventually finished third.
The 25-year-old made no secret of his dislike of similar conditions at Royal St George's the following year, while he missed the cut at Muirfield 12 months ago and labelled his own play as "brain dead" following an opening 79.
However, the former world number one insists he is looking forward to playing in the forecast bad weather at Royal Aberdeen this week, while a scouting mission to Hoylake at the weekend boosted his confidence.
"You've got to relish the challenge," the two-time major winner said. "I'm trying to adopt more of that mindset, especially for these couple of weeks a year. It's not like I haven't played well on links courses before and in links conditions.
"Back when I was 15, 16, 17, playing links golf all the time, it wasn't anything to put your wet gear on and play whereas now we're so spoiled playing in great conditions. Any time there's a bit of rain in America it's a thunderstorm so you go in anyway."
Asked if Hoylake would be a better fit for his game than some other Open venues, McIlroy added: "I think so. It's quite straightforward off the tee, relatively flat fairways, big, flat greens for the most part.
"There are some run-offs on some holes. But compared to some other Open courses, relatively simple.
"The strategy is easy, just don't hit it in the bunkers. I've a 2-iron in the bag I feel will be a big key for me this week and next. I'll be hitting that a lot off the tees and if I can keep that in play and on the fairway, then I feel like I have a decent chance."
McIlroy's last event saw him miss the cut in the Irish Open for the second year in succession, after which he headed to Ibiza with six friends for a holiday.
And he is hoping there could be a good omen in the fact that new Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic also visited the island following his loss in the French Open final.
"Hopefully I can do the same as what he's done, win the Open next week," joked McIlroy, who was also quick to point out that it was not quite "your typical lads trip" thanks to staying on a private boat.
But following his high-profile split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, whatever he gets up to in his social life is certain to attract attention in some parts of the media.
"It's just going to be like that," McIlroy conceded. "It is what it is. I just live my life and people can say or write whatever they want. I'm very single and very happy at the minute, that's all I can say."