McIlroy shot 13 under par in the abrdn Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in 2019, but that was only good enough for a tie for 34th as Bernd Wiesberger beat Benjamin Hebert in a play-off after the pair finished tied on 22 under.
Two months later McIlroy shot 15 under par in finishing tied 26th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and vented his frustration, saying he was “honestly sick” of such easy set ups and that the Renaissance Club had not been “a good test”.
The winning total last year was 11 under par and with new tees and thicker rough in place for the 2021 edition, McIlroy believes his total from two years ago could well prove more competitive this time around.
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“I would say 14 under this week is probably going to have a decent chance,” the four-time major winner said. “It’s all dependent on the weather, the direction of the wind, whether the course firms up any more than how it is right now.
“It’s obviously soft just from all the rain there’s been the last couple of days. But it’s good. It’s a good test. The rough’s up a bit more than it probably was last time.
“Maybe players might just get punished a little more for wayward shots, which is sort of what you’re looking for. You’ve got to stand up and hit some good golf shots and you want to be challenged a little bit.”
McIlroy had originally planned to take this week off ahead of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s, but with strict coronavirus controls in place for the year’s final major, the 32-year-old’s wife Erica and daughter Poppy stayed behind in the United States and he added the Scottish Open to his schedule.
“I wouldn’t say it was forced upon me, I’m not here against my will,” McIlroy added.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the golf course. I was pretty rusty last week in Ireland. I didn’t really do any practice the week after the US Open and it sort of showed in my game.”