This week marks a decade since a then young-looking, freckle-faced, curly haired Rory McIlroy led from start-to-finish to capture the 2011 US Open at the Congressional club in Maryland. McIlroy had brilliantly rebounded from his closing round Masters meltdown to reaffirm to the sports world his enormous talent
Now at age 32, the curls have gone and McIlroy’s happily married, and with a young daughter. So, what was the big difference 10-years ago for the now multi-millionaire, Florida-based Irishman?
“I think the ’11 U.S. Open was only my third one, and I played okay at Bethpage in ’09, I missed the cut at Pebble in ’10,” he said. “Looking back, I probably just had a little less going on in my head, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Probably a little less cynical too. Sometimes I think you can sort of get into that mindset coming into the U.S. Opens.
“Yeah, just trying to — first time I laid my eyes on Congressional, I thought, you know, I could see myself shooting scores out here. It’s the same as here. You hit fairways, you hit greens, and you can shoot good scores. It’s just a matter of getting into a little more of a positive mindset going into the tournament.”
Since his 2011 Father’s Day triumph at Congressional, McIlroy’s best finish in a U.S. Open has been a pair of ninth place results (2014 and 2019) and a share of eighth place a year ago at Winged Foot. He’s coming into what will be a 14th U.S. Open showing on the back of a recent victory in the Wells Fargo Championship, a top-50 finish at the PGA Championship along with a T18th in the Memorial, As well, he’s dropped to No. 11 on the World Rankings.
“At Kiawah, I felt like I went into the week playing pretty well. I struggled on the left-to-right winds there,” he said.
“So even from the first tee shot on Thursday, hitting it into the water on 10. Since then, I’ve changed my driver setup a little bit, and I feel a lot more comfortable with that.
“If I’d have played the par-5s the same way that Phil (Mickelson) played them at Kiawah, I’d have won the golf tournament. I just played the par-5s so badly. But every time you play a tournament, you learn something, and you try to put that into practice the next week. But it’s not as if — you know, I won a tournament four or five weeks ago, so it’s there.
“Then walking off Muirfield Village a couple Sundays ago, I said to Harry (Diamond – caddy), I felt like I played better at Memorial than I did at Quail Hollow. I finished 18th at Memorial and I won Quail Hollow. It’s golf at the end of the day and sometimes it’s just unpredictable.
“I’m feeling good about where my game is. As I said at the very start, it’s about going out there and playing as free as I can and having that mentality that I had as a 22-year-old and just trying to get into that mindset.”