Rory McIlroy may find it somewhat strange next week teeing-up at Royal Lytham and St. Annes without the joy of celebrating his birthday.
McIlroy is no stranger to this year’s Open Championship having competed many times on the Lancashire links gem in the Lytham Trophy as well as the 2007 British Amateur Championship.
However on a handful of occasions McIlroy’s birthday would fall during the week of the prestigious amateur event, and including the 2006 Lytham Trophy when he turned 17.
“When I think of Lytham there are happy memories,” he said.
“It was always my birthday when the Lytham Trophy came around and I remember being there on my 17th birthday when one of the presents from my mum and dad was the Highway Code for me to start driving.
“I thought, ‘I’m a man’!”
McIlroy went back to Royal Lytham and St. Annes last weekend to again familiarize himself with the host venue for the 141st Open Championship.
“It’s one of those courses that I don’t have to make suit my eye, but does suit my eye,” he said.
“The last time I was there, I was five down after six in the Amateur Championship to (European Tour player) Danny Willett, who eventually beat me on the 17th.
“I also had a couple of close calls in the Lytham Trophy, three-putting the last to miss out in a play-off and finishing second in another.”
In fact, McIlroy contested two Lytham Trophy events but finished third, and not second, on each occasion.
“In the 2006 Lytham Trophy, McIlroy came to the last green in contention and just needed two putts and he would have been in the play-off.
But fired by the impetuosity of youth, his first putt ran three feet past and he missed the return putt.
On his second appearance a year later, McIlroy was again in contention but he dropped off the lead to finish in third place once more.
Nonetheless, the course does hold a special place in his heart, as does girlfriend, Caroline Wozanacki, as evident in a ‘tweet’ earlier this week on the occasion of the Dane’s 22nd birthday.
“Happy Birthday Caroline!!! The best girlfriend a guy could ever ask for!!!!”
And when asked about the intrusion into his private life, McIlroy says having their relationship under such intense media scrutiny doesn’t trouble them unduly.
“Not particularly,” he says.
“I suppose it’s hard to imagine it if you’re not in that position yourself … and there’s not many people going to be in our position.
“You have to separate your professional life from your personal life and when you’re at golf, you have to focus 100pc on that, which I do most times.
“We’re lucky to have met, only Caroline supports Liverpool — sure nobody’s perfect.”
McIlroy also revealed his build-up to The Open this year is entirely different compared to 2011 when he missed the Royal St. George’s halfway cut.
This year, he played practice rounds at Royal Lytham on Thursday and yesterday (Friday).
Later last night, he was present at a gala fundraiser at Holywood Golf Club, and will fly back to Lytham tomorrow.
Present at the fund-raiser was Irish rugby legend, Brian O’Driscoll.
“Instead of turning up on Monday night or Tuesday morning, I just want to get there and play, play, play,” he said.
However McIlroy also disclosed how surprised he was with the reaction to him shooting Sandwich weekend scores last year of 74 and 73 that sent him tumbling from level par and only four off the lead to an eventual tie for 25th at seven over par.
“I’d never seen a press room as packed as that,” he said.
“There was so much hype after the US Open, I thought to myself, ‘Jeeeez, it’s only one tournament. Would everyone calm down!”
Well it will take some calming down next week should McIlroy lift the famed Claret Jug.