CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy shrugged off criticism from TV analyst Butch Harmon after launching his title challenge at the 147th British Open with a confidence-boosting two-under-par 69 on Thursday.
Harmon, former coach of Tiger Woods, told Sky Sports viewers the 29-year-old Northern Irishman had become too “robotic” and suggested he concentrate fully on golf and forget about his brand and endorsement contracts.
“It’s easy to make comments when you don’t know what’s happening,” McIlroy told reporters after three birdies were partially offset by a dropped stroke at the par-four fifth. “I haven’t spoken to Butch in a long time.
“He doesn’t know what I’m working on in my swing and he doesn’t know what’s in my head. It’s easy to speculate but unless you actually know what’s happening, I just don’t really take any notice of it.”
McIlroy’s hopes of claiming a fifth major victory have sometimes been scuppered by indifferent first-round efforts, an 80 in last month’s U.S. Open being the most recent example.
He admitted it “wasn’t pretty off the tee” on Thursday but said he would have happily taken a 69 at the start of the round.
“I didn’t see the fairway much,” added McIlroy. “But I got it done. I definitely think that’s the worst I’m going to drive it this week.”
The majority of the players are choosing to take irons off the tee to counteract the excessive ball roll they are getting from the sun-baked fairways.
The long-hitting McIlroy, however, said he planned to continue attacking off the tee for the remainder of the week.
“If you play aggressive round here you might make more bogeys than playing it safe but you are going to make more birdies as well,” he explained.
“Even though I got away with some tee shots, I think that’s what I have to do. That’s my game plan,” said McIlroy.
“I’m convinced that’s how I should play it. It’s not going to be for everyone but it worked out pretty well today.”
The former world number one’s putting has often been described as his Achilles heel. He missed three times from inside six feet at Carnoustie but McIlroy was not too downhearted about that.
“Even the ones I missed, I hit some really good putts,” he said. “I felt like I put good strokes on it and holed my fair share which was good to see.”
Editing by Toby Davis