Open Championship: Quotes from the golfers at Royal Birkdale

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

All the quotes you need from the players ahead of the start of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on Thursday morning.

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Wednesday quotes


Rory McIlroy on keeping positive (Sky Bet Price Boost: McIlroy or Johnson to win The Open, 7/1 to 8/1!): "Tom Weiskopf is the one that said that first. He said, 'when I'm playing well, I can never imagine how I ever played so badly. And when I play badly, I can never imagine how I played so great.

"And I think that's how fine the line is in golf, between playing great and playing poorly. Right now I feel like I can hit the ball in the fairway, and from there I can hit the ball on the green. And if I get my eye in, I can put the ball in the hole from there. 

"So it's not bad. It's not as if I can't see myself shooting a good score. It's all there. It's just a matter of putting it all together. My memories of golf are pretty good right now. I've done some pretty good things in this game, and I don't feel like I'm that far away from doing them again.

"My game is all there and it's just about staying as positive as I possibly can. I don't know if I'll find something this week, I'll be able to tell you better when I'm in the tournament and how I'm feeling out there. But I'm as positive as I can be, I guess, and we'll see how that goes." 

McIlroy was widely expected to be the dominant force in golf after his outstanding 2014 campaign in which he won his first Open title and followed that with his second PGA Championship win at Valhalla, but he had not added to his four majors since.

"When you ride on the crest of a wave, it's easy to get caught up with those expectations and you start believing them," he added. 

"I have been able to play golf in stretches that if I continued that type of golf for six, seven, eight years, yes, I would be able to win a lot more. 

"But golf is so fluid and so you're always trying to evolve. You're always trying to figure out what the best way is to get the best out of yourself, and the thoughts that I might have had when I won at Hoylake might not work for me now. It's all about trying to get the best out of yourself and trying to think about what thoughts you need going into the week.

"If you had the same thoughts and the same feelings each week and that's what worked for you every single week, the game would be easier than it is. But golf is almost like life, there's ups and downs, and it's never that linear sort of direction. 

"But when I won those three tournaments in 2014 and I was where I was in the game, of course I thought I really can keep this going and I was going into the Masters the next year thinking I can win the Grand Slam, and some things just come along that you don't expect.

"There's been a couple of injuries the last couple of years, and that sort of stopped me in my tracks. But I've still got plenty of time to rekindle those feelings and that sort of play. And I really don't feel I'm that far away from it right now, even if the results don't suggest it. 

"I wish I was here being the number one player in the world with a couple more majors and whatever, and I'm in a place where I'm trying to figure out how I get back to that position where I was this time two and a half, three years ago.

"But I'm working on it. I'm trying to get back there and I'm doing everything I can. And hopefully the start of that crest of a wave happens this week." 

World number one Dustin Johnson will have no distractions at Royal Birkdale this week as he seeks to avoid a third successive missed cut (Sky Bet Price Boost: McIlroy or Johnson to win The Open, 7/1 to 8/1!).

The big-hitting American failed to make the weekend at the Memorial Tournament and also for his US Open title defence at Erin Hills last month.

In between those two events his fiancee Paulina Gretzky gave birth to their second child River, a brother for two-year-old Tatum

.Johnson subsequently crashed out of the US Open with a four-over total, missing the cut by three shots.

However, he has arrived in Southport for The Open on his own having left Paulina, the children and influential soon-to-be-father-in-law Wayne Gretzky, the former professional ice hockey star, at home.

"No, they're not over here. My new son is only five weeks old. He's at home with mom and he's doing well. Everybody is happy," said Johnson.

"It's been very exciting. It's a lot of fun. Definitely the second one is easier than the first one (as you are) not quite as nervous when you're bringing them home from the hospital.

"With FaceTime and the things we've got now it's pretty easy to keep in touch and to kind of feel like you're almost there.

"I obviously miss the family but it's part of the job. Even when we're at home I'm at the golf course all day." 

Tyrrell Hatton may be out of form when it comes to competition - but recent practice has given him the perfect confidence boost for the Open.

He said: "It was quite surreal, a nice surprise. It's not often you go hole-out, hole-out, so that was pretty cool. I don't think that will ever happen again so that will be a good memory.

"Sadly my results lately haven't been as I'd hoped but I've been working hard between tournaments and hopefully that will pay off and it will click this week." 

Former world number one Jason Day is feeling refreshed ahead of the Open - because President Trump delayed his travel plans.

The Australian did not arrive at Royal Birkdale until Monday and did not play the course until Tuesday after arriving later than planned from the United States.

Day originally intended to arrive on Sunday but, after learning a connection in New York would be delayed because of President Trump's movements, he decided to book a later flight. 

The 29-year-old said: "I had three weeks off before this, so I could have got in early.

"I was supposed to come in on Sunday but I was flying through JFK and President Trump was there and there was a bunch of delays.

"So I just decided to move my flight back a little bit later. President Obama held me up one time flying out of Palm Springs, so I just didn't bother with it. It was quite nice, I got to spend more time with the kids at home.

"I usually get in Thursday or Friday and play a couple of practice rounds, but I did it this year at Augusta and I was just truly knackered by the time I started.

"This week has felt a lot quicker to me. I think all in all I feel pretty ready and fresh going into (Thursday's) round." 

Spaniard Jon Rahm on comparisons with Seve Ballesteros: "I wasn't fortunate to be able to watch Seve much. My family didn't get into golf pretty much up to the close 2000s and by then, you know, he was already on the down slope of his career. I wish we would have, though. I've seen every video on YouTube that you can of Seve.

"I've seen his video here in '76, his one winning in '79 about a million times, how he plays the back nine without hitting the fairway, and makes 4-under par, it's absolutely unbelievable. To whoever compares me to him, I'm never going to be Seve. Seve was so unique, so special.

"If I'm somewhat compared to him, to see the hopes people have in me, it's amazing. I try to take it as a positive and embrace it. He's a great idol of mine and I try to emulate a lot of things he used to, and a lot of that is the inspirational power he had, the way he brought masses together and people together. If I could do a quarter of whatever he did, I'd probably be satisfied with my career."

On playing in just his fourth Major: "It still takes a little bit of adjusting period. This is my fourth major that I've ever played and each one's been a very different feeling. After a win in Ireland and being top 10 in the world, it certainly is a different experience, which I'm enjoying a lot.

"When I got to the US Open (last month) I tried to control too much, I tried to do too much. I tried to take care of too many things at the same time."I've learned what I have to do now to manage my own mental strength and hopefully play well in future majors." 

Tuesday quotes


Rory McIlroy could prove the doubters wrong and emerge from his "slump" at any time, according to Olympic champion Justin Rose: "The one thing about Rory is as soon as you question him, he'll do something special and turn it all around. It's happened a few times in his career where people say he's in a bit of a slump and then he'll win the FedEx Cup. So never worry about him from that point of view."

On his own chances of bettering a top four finish at Royal Birkdale back in 1998, Rose added: "It surprises me after all these years that is still the best finish.

"I don't want to say that if I don't win this it's going to be a huge sort of hole in my career, but it's the one tournament that I've dreamed about since I was a young boy.

"You'd take a major championship anywhere, but if they happen to line up a special venue, for me to do it at Royal Birkdale would be obviously a full-circle moment. To win it would kind of close the book in a way on my Open Championship story. There's no rush, but certainly I'm into the do-it-now phase of my career."

Defending Open champion Henrik Stenson on his chance of lifting the trophy: "The spirits might be another five per cent up compared to Sunday. It could have been a good finish at the Scottish Open. I lipped out for eagle on 14 to go to seven under for the round and then finished four under. I guess it was a bit of frustration on that (which came out) in one of the interviews after the round there.

"But at the same time I don't feel like I've had the consistency I want to have, and to be honest I didn't think I had that last year if I compare it to 2013 for instance.

"Even though it was the best year of my career last year, I felt it was well timed, as well. I played my best at a few events that really mattered. I'm kind of working on that, trying to get that consistency back.

"Whether it's going to be good enough this week or not, I can't tell you, but I couldn't tell you how I was going to win before the week last year either. In golf, I guess you're only a couple of good shots and picking up some nice solid feelings away from having a really good week.

"I worked hard my whole career to be able to win that championship last year and I can't really put the pressure on myself that I'm going to win it again. It took a lot of chances to win that one, so I'm just going to go out there and do my best, really."

Jordan Spieth on his chances of capturing the third leg of a career grand slam at Royal Birkdale: "I'm very excited for another major, coming off a win and few weeks' break. I feel fresh, feel ready to go.

"I went with some friends on vacation and it was kind of nice to put your feet in the sand and take a deep breath. I went six out of seven weeks prior, so it was a heavy stretch with a couple of them being home events, which also you think would be more rest, but they're actually pretty crazy.

"So it was just kind of nice to breathe deeply for a week straight out there and then come back with a little fire and a little longing to get back to work.

"I went away not wanting to touch a club. And then after a few days of resting, you start to want to bring it back."

On whether it is possible for a dominant player such as Tiger Woods to emerge: "I wouldn't get your hopes up. Having experienced a year like he continued to do for years, it just takes a lot out of you. It's very tough to do. You have to have a lot of things go right right at the right times.

"I doubt you'll see a dominance like that maybe ever again in the game. I just think guys are learning, guys are getting stronger. Athletes are going to golf. Guys are winning younger, playing more fearless, even in major championships.

"I think it's going to be a very exciting time going forward of guys that are going to be playing and battling against each other. You'll see a group of 10 to 12 guys over the next 15, 20 years, that are going to have a lot of different competitions that come down the stretch with each other.

"It's different than one person being the guy to beat. But I think it's exciting."

Lee Westwood hopes to follow in the footsteps of Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson and win the Open Championship in his forties: "I'm still hitting the ball as good as I always have. 

"I'm 44 and you think a little bit differently as you get older, but hopefully I can think a bit more wisely and use a bit of cunning and guile on the golf course.

"One of the times I've come close to winning was Turnberry and Tom Watson lost in a play-off at 59. Last time it was held around here (in 2008) Greg Norman made a run at it at 53.

"The US Open course (Erin Hills) was a bomber's style course where they had a big advantage, but this course brings a lot more players into it. The Open Championship always does with the weather and the way the golf course plays. You have to think your way around it."

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson on his "terrible" season: "Let's just get right to it. It's terrible! There have been some highlights but what I believe has happened is life. Sometimes you get focused on something and it hurts somewhere else, right?

"The whole thing I have focused on this year is family. Do you just want to keep focusing on golf or do you focus on this? You are going to have years, weeks and months when you are better at one thing than you are the other one. I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do both.

"Jack Nicklaus seems like he was a phenomenal father and golfer - I haven't figured out how to do both but it is a learning process. It's been tough but I know I am on the right path in life - and I am always going to be at the Masters, so it's all good."

Monday quotes


Henrik Stenson ahead of the start of his Open Championship defence: "It definitely feels like it's turning the page, returning the Claret Jug, and now I can start looking at this week's competition and also for the years to come. 

"It's easy to be stuck in what has been and not giving enough to the present and the future. It's a bit bittersweet to return it, but it had to be done.

"It's been a busy year, the busiest of my career, but also the best one and the proudest one.

"It (the Claret Jug) has seen a lot of hands and lot of people but it hasn't been dropped to my knowledge."

Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington hopes to draw on good memories from his victory at Royal Birkdale in 2008: "I really do have good memories from 2008, and it was a real big win for me at the time. 

"Obviously I had won at Carnoustie, and Carnoustie was very exciting, but kind of messed up the 72nd hole there, so it left a little something wanting.

"It was nice to come back here, and I think I won from the wrong side of the draw. I was in the last group Sunday, I played great, swung the club great and hit a great shot on the 71st hole. I did everything you dream about doing as a kid to win a major, and it was a very satisfying feeling to get my second major here. 

"It's interesting this week, I've come in in a better form so I'm playing decent golf and contending, or trying to contend. I enjoy the week because I am not quite defending, but coming back here again and making the most of it because these good feelings don't come around that often."

Local boy Tommy Fleetwood recalls sneaking on Royal Birkdale as a youngster and now returns as a contender to win the Claret Jug: "I've never had a banner with me on it in Southport before, my face is on a lot of lamp posts at the moment.

"I got recognised at Altrincham market the other day but there's nobody fainting in the street as I walk past - I'm still waiting for those days to come.

"But it's nice to see things like my old school did. They had a massive banner with all the kids saying 'good luck' and I think it's just lovely.

"It's very touching, actually, seeing things like that, but the banners will be off in a couple of weeks so I best not get used to it too much." 

"For me growing up Royal Birkdale wasn't a course that I would be playing on.

"I might have hit the odd shot but that was about as far as it goes. You can't sneak on the places that we used to sneak on any more.

"The fifth was the place that used to be a lot more open but it's got fences and bushes there now.

"You can try (sneaking on), I wouldn't recommend it. It's a lot tougher these days."

Masters champion Sergio Garcia on his chances of more Spanish sporting success: "It would be amazing. It's so great to have not only that, but Muguruza winning at Wimbledon, too. So Spanish sports it's at a good stage. It's been up there for a while. And obviously Rafa winning Roland Garros as well. 

And on his chances of winning a first Claret Jug: "I think Birkdale is a great golf course. Other than Carnoustie and maybe Muirfield, it's one of the toughest Open venues we play. 

"Obviously a lot depends on weather, but it is a solid golf course and I've managed to play here in '98 and 2008, and it is a golf course that I like. But we'll see how it plays throughout the week. 

"The Open is one of my favourite tournaments of all year. I've been very relaxed in some Opens and I've played great and also been very relaxed and played maybe not as great as I would like to, but I don't think that it changes.

"At the end of the day when we get there on Thursday morning on the first tee, the nerves will be there and that's not going to change because that's what drives us. So we'll see how we're able to handle all of those." 

Canadian Austin Connelly on his Open Championship debut and who he looks up to: "Jordan (Spieth) is a really good role model for me.

"He's taken off like a rocket so it has been great to see him go from where he was when I turned pro to number one player in the world.

"It has been nice to watch and be around during the process. It sure would be nice to follow that path.

"I've also played with Todd Hamilton a couple of dozen times over the years as he plays not far from where I live so I had the privilege to talk to him quite a lot.

"I haven't spoken to him (about the Open) but I imagine I will see him as he's coming over to play as well." 



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