Rory McIlroy says missing the cut at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush was a “turning point in a lot of different things”.
In BBC NI’s new documentary The Open at Royal Portrush, four-time major winner McIlroy says he regards the tournament as his best experience of 2019.
The home favourite was eight-over-par after a torrid opening round in July.
To the delight of the crowd he rallied on the second day but fell short of the cut despite a six-under 65.
The documentary, which will air on BBC One Northern Ireland at 20:30 GMT on Monday 30 December, sees winner Shane Lowry reflect on his remarkable triumph at Portrush with insight from Ireland’s other major champions McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
Backed by a vocal home support, McIlroy was many people’s favourite to lift the Claret Jug as The Open was held in Northern Ireland for just the second time in its 148-year history.
However, an out-of-bounds tee shot at the first put the Holywood native four-over after the opening hole.
“I think I was overwhelmed,” reflects McIlroy.
“I was like ‘wow, this is a little bigger than I thought it was going to be’, it’s almost like a ring-walk for a boxer.
“I’d say ‘maybe I could have prepared myself better for that moment’, but I don’t know if I could have. I don’t know if there’s anything that could prepare you for that.”
‘I had to stop myself from crying’
Despite the first round leaving McIlroy’s hopes of making the final two days seemingly over, the fans continued to follow him in numbers as he fought back on day two.
“There was a couple of times during that round when I had to stop myself from crying,” McIlroy admits.
“It was as if the country had all got behind me and just gave me this massive hug.
“I’ve never felt a level of support like that before and I think I forgot how much I meant to people here, but more so I forgot how much they meant to me.”
Despite shooting seven birdies, McIlroy was unable to battle his way into the weekend, however the Northern Irishman remains adamant the experience played a vital part in his strong finish to the season, which resulted in McIlroy being voted the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.
“It was definitely a turning point in a lot of different things. I flew back to America that weekend and I wrote myself down goals for the end of the year, and every goal that I set myself I achieved.
“I don’t want to say I hit rock bottom, but if that’s the worst, most embarrassing thing that is going to happen to me in my career, I think that says a lot about what that day did for me.
“It was the best experience on a golf course for me this year.”