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Sense of freedom as Rory McIlroy relaxes into fresh challenge

Intrusions of privacy, celebrity tittle tattle, rampant rumours of romance?

Rory McIlroy refuses to talk about next week's Open while there is business in Aberdeen requiring his attention. Picture: Colin Mearns
Rory McIlroy refuses to talk about next week's Open while there is business in Aberdeen requiring his attention. Picture: Colin Mearns

Yes, it's a tough old life being Herald Sport's golf correspondent. For Rory McIlroy, the unrelenting scrutiny of his everyday existence must make goldfish in a bowl feel like they are living in the vast expanses of the Atlantic. He can deal with the remorseless probing, pointing and pontificating, of course.

"I just live my life and people can say or write whatever they want," said a visibly relaxed and content-looking McIlroy ahead of his first Scottish Open appearance since 2009. "I'm very single and very happy at the minute. I don't see any other way to live your life than just to be yourself and do the things that make you happy."

The palaver that followed the announcement of his break-up from his tennis-playing fiancée Caroline Wozniacki back in May was feverish but he put all the hoopla to one side to win the BMW PGA Championship that same turbulent week. Now footloose and fancy free, McIlroy clearly has his eye on the ball. Next week's Open may be the big golfing beast lurking round the corner but the Northern Irishman is focused purely on affairs here in Aberdeen.

"I did an interview on the 18th green today and the Claret Jug was sitting behind me," he said. "Sam Torrance was in the hospitality tent and he goes 'look, it's right behind you'. I just said to him, 'I'll focus on that next week'.

"And it is really important to do that; to focus here. If you have a chance coming down the back nine on Sunday, you're not thinking about anything else other than trying to win the Scottish Open."

A week away with some old pals in Ibiza recently was not quite a gathering of beer guzzlers on a cheap flight but it's certainly helped his frame of mind ahead of a big run of events. "We didn't do the normal lads holiday," added the two-time major champion with a chuckle. "We had a nice boat and would go out to sea every day. All my mates were there and it was just nice to get away from things. Obviously we still did a few of the things that lads do, but it was needed."

Back in the Scottish Open field here at Royal Aberdeen for what he views as a "true links test", compared to the more modern design of previous host Castle Stuart, McIlroy is ready for the challenge.

Like many of his peers who now enjoy the pleasant climes of the USA, there have been countless questions asked about McIlroy's ability to churn it out on the links when the elements take a turn for the worse. He has certainly not helped himself on that front through word and deed in recent years but McIlroy seems determined to show his true grit.

"You've got to relish the challenge and that is the mindset I'm trying to adopt, especially for this two weeks of the year," he added. "It's not like I haven't played well on links courses before in tough conditions. I'm just getting back to that. The more you play, the more you get used to it. Back when I was 15, 16, 17 years old, I was playing links golf all the time and it wasn't anything to put your wet gear on and get on with it. Where we are now [in the US], we are so spoiled playing in great conditions. And if there's a bit of rain in America it tends to be a thunderstorm so we come off the course anyway."

Feeling relaxed, refreshed and focused, the outlook for McIlroy is far from bleak.

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