Rory McIlroy is prepared to give U.S. Open organisers one last chance in getting next fortnight’s host venue, Pebble Beach correct before becoming critical of the USGA.
McIlroy found himself drawn into golf’s latest controversy on the eve of the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial event being again played in Dublin, Ohio.
It will be McIlroy’s eighth appearance in the event where he’s enjoyed four top-10s including a share of fourth in 2016 and a tied eighth place a year ago.
The ancient club-and-ball game is under fire again after suggestions in a U.S. magazine earlier in the week that the likes of past U.S. Open winners, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson had previously hinted about boycotting the much-maligned U.S. Open.
World No. 6 Justin Thomas, who had been critical of the USGA earlier this year, again found himself drawn into the ‘debate’ on Tuesday in hosting a pre-Scottish Open phone hook-up with the media.
And Thomas left none of the media listening-in at The Renaissance Club in Scotland in any doubt of his intentions should the Pebble Beach course set-up become the fiasco and shame we saw a year ago at Shinnecock Hills.
“We’re getting to the point now where if stuff gets out of control, we don’t feel like we have to hold back anymore, so we can kind of say how we feel,” said Thomas.
McIlroy hasn’t quite reached desperation point but if push comes to shove, he seems ready also to speak out against the USGA, with the U.S. Open starting June 13th.
“I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with the USGA as they’ve set-up a player liaison team over the past couple of years, so I have pretty good dialogues with them back-and-forth,” said McIlroy.
“They seek our opinion like some of the other tournaments do, so they are trying to do their job as good as they can and they will admit they have made a couple of mistakes over the years.
“Everyone does, and I think they should have the chance to redeem themselves but if they can’t redeem themselves at Pebble Beach, then there could be a problem.
“I don’t run golf tournaments and I don’t set-up golf courses so they (USGA) should seek the opinion of those people who do that every week.
“We already have one Open Championship a year. We don’t need two.
“And growing-up and watching the U.S. Open, my perception of a U.S. Open was tight fairways and thick rough. There was a premium on accuracy and precision, and some of the U.S. Open golf courses over the past couple of years have got away from that.
“I just think the U.S. Open has lost its identity a little bit in what it is, and I would like to see them go back to that as it worked. It really worked.”
If McIlroy were to win this week, he would join Tiger Woods as the only golfer to win both the Players and the Memorial in the same year.
“I was fortunate to win Arnie’s event at Bay Hill a couple of years ago, so to win here would be really cool and to walk up that hill up the last and have Jack (Nicklaus) greet you would be something pretty special,” said McIlroy.
“It’s been a good year for me and I feel I have the game to do well around here, and it’s just a matter of keep doing what I am doing.”
The PGA Tour released a McIlroy ‘stat’ ahead of this week indicating McIlroy has this year hit 438 drives totalling 134,196 yards. It equates to an average of 306.4 yards.
McIlroy, the lone Irishman in the field, will be out over the opening two rounds with fellow Major winners, Jordan Spieth and Thomas teeing-up at 1.15pm later today (Irish time).
Woods, a five-time Memorial winner, tees-up in the group immediately behind McIlroy.