A top-4 finish at The Open is certainly nothing to sneer at for any player, but Rory McIlroy will certainly be leaving Royal Birkdale this week wondering what might have been if his tournament had started a bit differently.
The four-time major champion began Thursday's opening round in horrific fashion, bogeying five of his first six holes to shoot 5-over on the opening nine. He would rebound with a 4-under on the back, but would finish the day six shots off the lead held by eventual champion Jordan Spieth and two others.
McIlroy actually outscored Spieth by one stroke over the final 63 holes of the event, but the troublesome start did the Northern Irishman in. Despite that, McIlroy is taking a number of positives out of the event and moving forward.
"I wish I could have had that start back obviously, but these things happen and I'm just proud of how I held it together and battled," McIlroy told the BBC after the event. "I feel like with the way my game is I'll have a great chance at Akron and the PGA."
McIlroy came to Royal Birkdale with a ton of questions regarding the state of his game. He had missed three of his past four cuts, but showed why he's one of the best in the world with three straight rounds in the 60s to close the event.
"The PGA is only three weeks away so I'm happy that's coming quite quickly on the back of this. Game is in much better shape than it was heading into this week," he said. "It's hard whenever you feel like you've have a chance to win a major and it's not quite there, so it's disappointing but at the same time you have to take the positives."
The improved play will certainly make McIlroy one of the favorites to win The PGA Championship in August, an event he's captured once already. He's registered two wins at Quail Hollow in his career during the annual Tour event at the venue, and holds the course record after a 61 in 2015.
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