• The Open

McIlroy delighted attention has switched to Woods

ESPN staff
July 17, 2012

Rory McIlroy is happily flying under the radar this week, believing the reduced attention on his game may help him challenge at the Open Championship.

McIlroy was the man of the moment ahead of the same tournament 12 months ago, having pocketed the 2011 US Open. His appearance at The Open back then was his first since that record-breaking feat, and pressure was on McIlroy to reproduce.

The scrutiny led to an anti-climactic 25th-place finish, and has since been followed by a series of poor performances from the 23-year-old. Four missed cuts in his last six tournaments is hardly major-winning form, but it has helped shift the pressure to the likes of Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

McIlroy has courted far less coverage so far at Royal Lytham, and he admits it has helped him focus on his game ahead of Thursday's tee-off.

"It's been great," McIlroy said in a press conference. "It's been lovely just going about my business - definitely not the madness that was going on last year.

"It's nice. I've tried to keep it as low-key as possible and feel like I've done that pretty well. Obviously people still come up and want photos and stuff, but the commotion's definitely not as bad.

"The hype [of last year] and everything was so big that it maybe had a little bit to do with it, but at the end of the day I just didn't play well enough to figure in the tournament."

McIlroy's poor display at last year's Open prompted him to make one or two unfortunate comments, notably that he could not wait to get back to the US. It was seen by sections of the media as a sign the Northern Irishman was turning his back on his roots, but McIlroy puts it down to immaturity.

"Those comments were just pure frustration with having really high expectations going into it, coming off a major win," he said.

"Blaming the weather, blaming the draw, blaming my luck - that was just frustration. Looking back I just didn't handle the conditions as best I could have.

"That's something that I'm trying to do more of and to some degree at Portrush [in the Irish Open two weeks ago] I felt like I played well in the bad conditions. If it's like that again this week you're just going to have to knuckle down and focus and keep fighting."

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