Rory McIlroy says he will wrap himself “in cotton wool” to ensure he plays in an “extra special” Open Championship at St Andrews in July after missing his title defense at the iconic venue in 2015 due to a freak injury.
The oldest major marks its 150th tournament this year as it returns to the home of golf and the legendary Old Course for the first time in seven years.
To celebrate the milestone, BBC Sport is running a series of podcasts, focusing on a different player or topic each week.
The first, featuring 2014 Open champion McIlroy, is available now and is exclusive to BBC Sounds.
In it, the Northern Irishman talks about how he has made his childhood dreams come true, how his “momentum” in the majors came to a halt when he missed the 2015 Open and how he felt he lost the sense of invincibility.
Following his victory at the Hoylake Open, McIlroy went on to win the US PGA Championship, the most recent of his four majors, and, after finishing fourth at the 2015 Masters and ninth at the US Open. In the USA, expectations were high heading into St Andrews.
But he tore an ankle ligament in the week before the Championships while playing football with friends.
“I didn’t win the Masters that year because Jordan (Spieth) played fantastically well, but I played well that week,” McIlroy said.
“I finished in the top 10 at the US Open and won three times in 2015, but [the injury] stopped that urge to be on that streak of seniors.
“It didn’t stop me from having a great year beyond that. I came back as soon as I could and played the PGA and played well, and ended up winning the (European Tour) Race to Dubai.”
Asked if he had lost the feeling of invincibility, McIlroy replied: “Yes. Brooks Koepka has spoken about this. When he went on to run (winning four majors in three years), you don’t have to do as much good to get yourself into the mixture.
“There was certainly that feeling in 2014 and 2015, but the game has moved on.”
McIlroy noted the emergence of defending Open champion Collin Morikawa, who will also appear in this podcast series, as a player he “hadn’t heard of” when he last won a Grand Slam in 2014.
“There are a lot of young players that have come in who are fearless, winning younger than ever. While it’s not about them, it’s about you and getting the best score you can, there are a few more players on the road out there.” . maybe it was five or seven years ago.”
This will be McIlroy’s first Open at St Andrews since 2010.
At that Championship, which was the 150th anniversary of the first, the 21-year-old shot a nine-under 63 in the first round to tie the record for the lowest score in a major.
He was caught in the worst weather in the second round and hit an 80 to dash his hopes of winning the tournament, though he recovered with a combined seven under par in the last two rounds to finish third.
McIlroy’s lone Claret Jug came four years later in Liverpool when he became the first European golfer to win three of the four majors.
He took a six-shot lead in the final round, eventually winning by two against Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia.
“Winning an Open with my parents there and having that hug on the back of the 18th green, those are the moments you’ll never forget,” McIlroy said.
“It’s the victory and everything to do with it, and the fact that you put your name on that trophy, but when I look back on my career, it’s the fact that my parents got to see me win those tournaments. That’s it. which makes me very proud, you share it with so many other people”.
Since that victory, McIlroy has only finished in the top 20 at The Open once, though he has had 14 top-10 finishes at the other three majors in that time.
“I’ve basically won everything there is to win in golf,” he said. “I’ve won the Players Championship. I’ve won the FedEx Cups. I’ve won the Race to Dubai. I’ve won World Golf Championships. I’ve won National Opens. I’ve done a lot.
“That hasn’t included a major, but I’ve played well enough to win one.”
A record crowd of 290,000 will descend on the Fife town of St Andrews in the third week of July to see if McIlroy can find his winning touch in the majors again.