Rory McIlroy returns for Bridgestone

ByBob Harig ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

AKRON, Ohio -- The Claret Jug has made its way back across the Atlantic, Rory McIlroy having first drank Jagermeister from the famous trophy, then letting it sit in his parents' home in Northern Ireland before bringing it to his home in Florida and now to Firestone Country Club.

The symbol of his Open Championship victory will be close by this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but McIlroy said he has not let it consume him as he attempts to get ready for a hectic part of the golf schedule.

"I've obviously had a bit of time to reflect after the Open and everything, but just decided I wanted to move on and move forward,'' McIlroy said Tuesday after a practice round at Firestone, where the Bridgestone begins Thursday. "There's a lot of big tournaments left this year, a lot of golf left to play, and a lot of things I still want to achieve. So [I] definitely wasn't going to dwell on what I'd done at Hoylake. And as I said, I want to move on and start by playing well again this week.''

McIlroy, 25, figures to be among the favorites this week and again next week at Valhalla in Louisville, site of the PGA Championship. Both courses seemingly suit McIlroy, who now has three major championships and has moved to No. 2 in the world behind Adam Scott.

His Open victory was his seventh on the PGA Tour and 13th as a professional worldwide. He won the U.S. Open in 2011 at Congressional and the PGA Championship in 2012 at Kiawah, building on the latter victory by winning three more times that year and capturing the money title on both the PGA and European tours.

But McIlroy admitted the feeling is different after winning the Open.

"I think just because it was the Open Championship and being from those islands where it's so important,'' he said. "After the PGA, I didn't go back home after. The Olympic Games were on as well, so there were a lot of sports stories going on at that time, where [this time] it was you go home on Monday, it was the biggest story of the day.

"It just felt just that little bit bigger. I felt like my fame or celebrity or whatever you want to call it just went up another notch after the win ... it's kind of something I'm going to have to handle from now on.

"But it's another major championship. It is he Open. It's the one that I dreamed about winning when I was a kid at Holywood Golf Club, holing all those putts to beat Tiger (Woods) and beat Phil (Mickelson) and beat Ernie (Els).

"Again, I feel like I've done it. It's great to be introduced as he Open champion, but I need to move on from that and say I've got a lot more golf left this year, and I want to achieve a lot more. I'm enjoying being the Open champion, but that's not all I want to be this year. I want to do more.''

That starts this week at the Bridgestone, where McIlroy has three previous top-10 finishes. Including next week's PGA Championship, McIlroy is expected to play six of the next seven weeks, concluding with the four PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff events. Then, after another week off, it's the Ryder Cup.

"It does seem that this course is going to set up well for me this week,'' he said. "It's soft. It's a long golf course anyway, and it's playing just a bit longer with all the rain that they've had. "It's a course that I've done pretty well on before and I feel comfortable on. These next two weeks here, at Valhalla as well, they're courses that should set up well for me. We'll see how it goes. I feel like my game's in good shape that I can definitely have a chance.''

McIlroy celebrated his Open victory for a couple of days, first on that Sunday night in Liverpool, then the next night with his best friends in Belfast. He got back to work last Wednesday, had a sponsor outing at Gleneagles on Thursday, then headed to Florida on Friday and spent the weekend practicing -- and taking photos of the Claret Jug.

"We had a good time with it,'' he said. "I've sort of been taking pictures of it ... beside the TV and on top of the toilet and wherever it's been. I've been taking a few photos. It's been quite funny, sending them around to all my friends. It's definitely nice to have it in my possession.''

Related Video