This British Open is McIlroy’s chance for redemption  

  CARNOUSTIE, Scotland— He spoke about bringing a thesaurus to the next press conference. Rory McIlroy was in a debate about how to describe the virtually indescribable but very difficult last four holes at Carnoustie. He’d be better off bringing a two-shot lead.

   There’s McIlroy, high on the leaderboard halfway through this British Open, in position to overtake the few men in front of him. Or to fail once more.

   In a light rain that made the Open feel like the Open, if with all the low scores not seem like one, McIlroy on Friday shot a second straight  2-under par 69.  He had only one bogey. “I’m pretty pleased with that,” he said.

    Something pleasing at a major golf tournament, finally, perhaps temporarily. He fell apart the final round of the Masters, going head-to-head in the final twosome against the eventual winner, Patrick Reed. He missed the cut in the U. S. Open.

  Now it is time for redemption, time to shake off the criticism, to show he once more is the man who thrilled as a kid, winning the British Open, the U.S. Open and twice winning the PGA Championship by the age of 25.

  The more you do, of course, the more the world wants you to do.

    “The more success you have,” said McIlroy the day before the Open began, “the more pressure you put on yourself because of expectations.”

     His expectations. Our expectations.

    “Rory’s obviously played well this year,” said Padraig Harrington, a statement that is accurate if one win and a second on two different tours means playing well.

  “Clearly,” said Harrington, “his career is solely based on how he does in the majors.”

   As is Tiger Woods career. As is Phil Mickelson’s career. As was Jack Nicklaus career.

  For Joe Montana and Tom Brady the standard is winning Super Bowls. For the Warrior stars, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and teammates, it’s winning NBA titles. Something has to be used as the yardstick for greatness.

    “I was on a nice run there, from 2011 to 2014,” said McIlroy. “I haven’t won one since. But I’m trying.”

    In the British Isle where the attitude invariably is “us against them,” McIlroy has been elevated to celebrity status, his life as well as his golf covered microscopically like some Hollywood figure—and not just because Rory’s from Holywood, which in Northern Ireland is pronounced “Hollywood.”

    The Sun, the British tabloid, carried a story in May headlined, “McIlroy: ‘Wife pulled me out of wine-drinking, TV-binging Masters malaise.”

  According to the story, McIlroy said “he had to be dragged out of the house by wife Erica after spending a full week brooding on his final-round flop at the Masters . . . once I got back into my routine, I was fine.”

   McIlroy, who needs a Masters victory to become only the sixth golfer in history to win all of the four Grand Slam tournaments, was within a short eagle putt of tying Reed on the second hole.

  The ball didn’t fall. McIlroy did, however, and he ended p tying for fifth, six shots back. “I just didn’t quite have it,” he would say that say.”

  Maybe not as bad as 2011, when McIlroy, then 22, blew a four-shot lead he carried into the Masters final round but still a me memory that haunts, a memory of which he’s too often reminded.

  As we’re aware, in sports, you’re only as good—or bad—as your last game. Or match. Or maybe in this Open, last round.  Rory said he Is not playing to cement a legacy. Oh, but he is, every time he tees it up in a major. There’s no escape from his reputation.

“I feel very comfortable out there,” McIlroy explained when asked about his golf. “I had been worrying about the result, not the process.

  “Even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging. I’m going to go down giving it my best.”

  That’s all we can ask.

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