Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy speaks to members of the media during a press conference at Royal Birkdale golf course near Southport in north west England, ahead of the 146th Open Golf Championship. AFP

SOUTHPORT: A relaxed Rory McIlroy played down fears over his form as he urged punters to back him in this week’s British Open, which starts at Royal Birkdale on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman, Open champion in 2014 at Hoylake, has missed the cut at three of the last five majors and also failed to make the weekend on the links at this month’s Irish Open and Scottish Open.

That helps explain why the odds on the world number four have been hovering around 20/1, longer than those for the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.

“Good time to back me, I think. Yeah, look, if I was a betting company and I saw my form over the past few weeks, you would say, yeah, that’s probably a fair enough price,” McIlroy said at Birkdale on Wednesday.

“But, again, all it takes is one week for those odds to go back to, I don’t know, 7 to 1, 8 to 1 at Quail Hollow,” added McIlroy with a nod to next month’s PGA Championship.

“So as I say, good week to back me.”

For all his recent travails the 28-year-old appears fresh and in good spirits off the course, settled by his recent marriage to his American partner Erica.

Now he is hoping to translate that into a concerted challenge for a fifth major and a first since he followed up lifting the Claret Jug in 2014 by landing that year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla.

“A second Open championship isn’t going to change my life. But I want to win. I’m still as ambitious now as I was starting off my career, if not more so now because I know what I’ve achieved and I know what I can achieve.

“So it only makes you want to do that even more,” said McIlroy, who was one over par after two rounds as he missed the cut at the Scottish Open last weekend.

“My game is all there. Again, it’s just about staying as positive as I possibly can. I don’t know if I’ll find something this week, I’ll be able to tell you better when I’m in the tournament and how I’m feeling out there.”

McIlroy does not tee off until 2:48pm (1348 GMT) on Thursday in an all-star group with world number one Johnson and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion.

He is marking 10 years since he made his debut in the Open at Carnoustie in 2007, and his aim is to take the trophy back across the Irish Sea, just as Padraig Harrington did the last time the Open came to Birkdale in 2008.

“You get so excited for these tournaments, they’re the biggest and best tournaments in the world. And ultimately my career is going to be defined by how I do in these tournaments,” said McIlroy, who finished fifth at Troon 12 months ago but knows his 2014 form is the benchmark.

“I’m in a place where I’m trying to figure out how I get back to that position where I was this time two and a half, three years ago.

“But I’m working on it. I’m trying to get back there and I’m doing everything I can. And hopefully the start of that crest of a wave happens this week.”--AFP

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