Liverpool. A name which, almost certainly, would bring one to think of The Beatles. However, for one week at least, for golf fans, Hoylake takes top billing.
As Royal Liverpool prepares to host the 151st Open Championship, Rory McIlroy looks in perfect position.
After nine years in the major wilderness, is the Northern Irishman finally primed to end his lengthy drought?
For a four-time major winner, a 16-year career without a win in Scotland seemed more than a little off.
Having grown up on the banks of the Irish Sea in County Down and with Links golf in his blood, the Northern Irishman has frequently floundered.
No win in the Home of Golf was a baffling truth; until last weekend.
Sinking an eight-foot putt to seal the Genesis Scottish Open at Renaissance, there was almost surprise on McIlroy’s face in victory.
Sealing a one-stroke victory over Scotland’s own Robert MacIntyre, McIlroy become the first player to win back-to-back Rolex Series events – his last, a third win in the Dubai Desert Classic in January.
As the Briton once again plays his home Open this week, in terms of preparation, it could not get much better for McIlroy.
After victory in East Lothian however, McIlroy is once again assigned another ‘favourites’ tag for a major.
A badge, which in the last decade has become quite the burden.
As documented now until the cows have come home, McIlroy’s quest for a major is now closing on a full decade.
It is a statistic which could yet deny his status as one of golf’s true greats.
Since winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014, the cabinet has remained dry for the Holywood native, with the Green Jacket still eluding his Grand Slam.
Hunting the Masters title, earlier this season and possibly as big a favourite in Georgia than ever, McIlroy flopped once more, failing to make the cut for the second time in three tournaments.
It’s worth reminding ourselves however, that same year saw a major double with an Open win also.
For it was nine years back that the Briton took home the Claret Jug, here at Hoylake.
However, instead of those looking for omens, the Open’s return to Royal Liverpool may only serve to heap the load on McIlroy yet further.
Perhaps however, 2023 could be a different story.
Now, lightened by not having to carry the PGA Tour almost single-handedly, the merger with LIV Golf has seen his inbox on an average week significantly decluttered.
Not only that, but as Brad Faxon continues to iron out the chinks in his game, McIlroy’s new driver has been a godsend.
Forgetting his trip to Augusta in April, his major campaign this term has been impressive.
After a T7 finish at Oak Hill, a runner-up finish to Wyndham Clark at Los Angeles Country Club felt like huge progress, but was still a huge chance missed.
At St. Andrews in last year’s Open, McIlroy went into Sunday tied for the lead but again, could only finish third.
Now no.2 in the world, the Northern Irishman has nine top-tens this season.
The last time McIlroy won a major he was only 25; a flood of major honours seemed destined to follow but somehow, the pressure has been too much.
That very same element is front-and-centre at Hoylake and after pulling out of a pre-tournament presser, McIlroy knows all eyes are on him.
In the past five years, pundits and media circles have falsely predicted the second coming of McIlroy; but it is just possible however, that Hoylake may finally see McIlroy’s often torturous journey to a fifth major complete its journey this week.