Hard to believe, but Rory McIlroy’s major winless streak now stands at 18, despite the promise of so many more to come after he went back-to-back in the summer of 2014 at The Open and PGA Championship for major titles No. 3 and 4. At the time, McIlroy was only 25 and even the game’s major record-holder, Jack Nicklaus, felt that McIlroy had 15 to 20 majors in him.
Now, fast forward to 2019. McIlroy is 30, and while the Northern Irishman has ten top-10 finishes in majors since the 2014 PGA, many of them have been back-door top 10s with late weekend charges. He’s been passed by Americans Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson as the one to beat in the majors, and with Tiger Woods breaking an 11-year major-less drought at The Masters, it’s now McIlroy who carries the designation as the player with the most pressure on him to win another major.
Can a little home cooking help McIlroy get off the schneid? The oddsmakers think so, with Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook listing McIlroy as the 8-1 favorite to win at Royal Portrush in his Native Ireland, with Koepka and Johnson listed at 10-1. GOLF Academy’s lead coaches also fancy his chances. We polled our coaches on who they thought would hoist the Claret Jug come Sunday, and 22% picked McIlroy. (See poll graphic, above.) He edged out Koepka, who garnered 18% of the vote despite three wins and two seconds in his last six major appearances.
“It’s a home game and understanding conditions is a big deal in this event,” said Garrett Froggatte. “If he can get the driver working like he did in Canada, he will be hard to beat.”
McIlroy, arguably the game’s best driver, put a clinic in the final round of the RBC Canadian Open, flirting with a 59 before settling for a 9-under-par 61. Ironically, it was a 16-year-old McIlroy who demolished the old course record at Royal Portrush’s Dunluce Links in 2005, also firing a 61.
“Rory is my pick for obvious reasons, never mind the 61 he shot at Royal Portrush in his youth,” said Kenny Nairn. “Slow greens, driver’s course and just an unadulterated desire to win on home soil.”
In terms of dark horses, our coaches like a pair of recent Open champions who’ve fallen on hard times of late, in Henrik Stenson (2016 champ) and Jordan Spieth (2017 champ). The two rank 37th and 38th, respectively, in the Official World Golf Rank heading into The Open.
“Hard to believe he’s fallen to No. 38 in the World Ranking, but he’s starting to putt better and drive it a bit better,” GOLF Academy’s Brian Jacobs said of Spieth, who’s winless on the PGA Tour since The Open at Royal Birkdale. “He’s had some time to rest and get his confidence back. I think he finishes top 5, if not a win.”
Stenson has one lone PGA Tour win since he captured an epic final-round duel with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.
“Past Open champion, can handle the pressure and knows how to play links golf,” said Mark Polich.