Rory McIlroy reveals secret mantra to Open success
Two unremarkable words - process and spot - drive 'Boy Wonder' to third major victory
For Rory McIlroy the secret of his stunning victory at the Open on Sunday came down to two rather unremarkable words: process and spot.
That was the mantra he repeated in his brain throughout four majestic rounds of golf at the Royal Liverpool course.
"Very simple," he disclosed when asked what were the trigger words he had referred to earlier in the week. It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone. It was ‘process’ and ‘spot’,"
"That was it. With my long shots I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings. And then ‘spot’ was for my putting.
"I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot, roll it over my spot every time. I wasn’t thinking about holing it. If that went in, then great.
"If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole. So ‘process’ and ‘spot’, that’s all I kept telling myself all week."
McIlroy, who is now three-quarters of the way to a career slam of majors at the age of 25 – a baby in golfing terms – began the day six shots clear and increased his lead to seven strokes with a birdie at the first.
The expected attack from Sergio Garcia did materialise and the lead was whittled down to two by the 14th but there was never a sense of panic for the Northern Irishman, who once took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the 2011 Masters only to implode with a horrific 80.
He said having such a large lead to take into the fourth round had been the key and he pointed to his burst of scoring on Saturday when he covered the last six holes in 20 strokes.
"Yesterday’s finish proved to be very important," said McIlroy, who was roared down the final few fairways on Sunday as he carded a one-under-par 71 for a 17-under total.
"Those two eagles went a long way in deciding this championship. To be able to pull clear like that was nice.
"It gave me that cushion. I wanted to shoot four under today to be safe but didn’t quite get to that. Didn’t quite need to, thankfully."
McIlroy was simply unflappable and the only person at Royal Liverpool who managed to get under his skin was not a rival player but a fan whose heckling finally provoked a reaction on the 16th tee.
"He was giving me grief all day, actually," the mild-mannered McIlroy said. "I sort of put it up for the first 15 holes, and then he deliberately coughed on my downswing on the 16th. I turned around and got him chucked out."
Apart from that it was a stress-free day for McIlroy whose fortunes have revived in spectacular style after a 2013 in which he won no tournaments, missed the cut at Muirfield and generally did not look like a man enjoying his profession.
A year after admitting he felt "lost" the talk now is of how many more majors he will win and when, not if, he will complete his major collection by winning the Masters at Augusta.
"I never had doubts [I would be back]," he said.
"Definitely missing the cut at Muirfield last year was a very low point. I never missed a cut at the Open before.
"I said to myself, I’ll try to never make that happen again. It’s been huge what a difference a year makes."