Bunker Mentality

Can Open leader Rory McIlroy finally defy the ‘curse of freaky Friday’?

Bunker Mentality

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Rory McIlroy tore Hoylake up in the opening round of The Open Championship, firing off six birdies and not making a single bogey as he he shot a 66 to claim the early lead in golf's oldest Major championship.

But rather than fill him with confidence, his brilliant start will almost certainly fill him with a familiar sense of impending doom.

That's because whenever McIlroy enjoys triumph, it seems that disaster isn't far behind. By far the most talented player of his generation, he has an astonishing ability to shoot low scores when things are going his way - but an equally distinguished history of spinning out of control when it all starts to go wrong.

It's something that all professionals struggle with, of course. It's almost unheard of for any player to enjoy a full four rounds at the top of their game during the course of a tournament - even Tiger Woods, in his record-breaking Masters win in 1997, was four over par for his first nine holes.

But McIlroy has taken inconsistency to a new high: who can forget the 2010 Open, when he followed an opening round 63 with a second round 80? Or the Masters the year after, when he blitzed the field for three and a half rounds before collapsing over the back nine on Sunday afternoon?

He seemed to have the problem licked at the 2011 US Open and 2012 US PGA Championships, where he played brilliantly throughout to win - but this season, his one-round collapses have been as bad as ever, and they've almost always happened on Fridays - as this amazing stat shows:

Just last week at the Scottish Open, McIlroy provided the latest example as opened with a 64 and followed it with a 78.

Can he avoid another similar Friday meltdown? The man himself made all the right noises when asked about it after his round - though it was clear to see his eyes flashing with annoyance at being questioned once again over his pre-weekend mental fragility.

"Not at all," he said when asked if there was any reason he shouldn't play well on Friday.

"I'm playing well, swinging the club really nicely, holed some nice putts and I'll try to continue to do that and hopefully have another solid round tomorrow. I won't approach it differently."

Of course, some might say approaching it differently is exactly what McIlroy does need to do. What's that definition of madness again? Repeating the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result?

It won't be long before we have an answer. By Friday night, McIlroy could well be on the way to another Major victory - but might just as easily be heading home to lick his wounds.

And if it does all go wrong? Well, perhaps he can persuade the powers that be to tweak the golfing schedules a little:

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