Rory McIlroy knows he has plenty of time on his side to win more Majors but he’s hoping an “ignorance is bliss” approach to his latest assignment at Southern Hills might help him add to his tally of four in Tulsa.
McIlroy arrived to this week’s U.S. PGA Championship carrying an eight year Major-free burden on his back. The now 33-year old picked off his first of four Major wins by the age of 25, a feat only matched by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and at that point, winning more was only a matter of when, not if.
McIlroy has had chances in the interim, playing in the final group alongside eventual champion Patrick Reed in 2018 at Augusta while he comes into this week off the back of a runner-up result at the Masters, albeit a distant one behind Scottie Scheffler.
McIlroy decided against arriving a week early to Southern Hills and after identifying the importance of a bright start, the Holywood star is hoping that a less is more approach to practice might yield better results as he tries to avoid overthinking things ahead of his latest Major plunge.
“I’ve won a couple of Major championships where I’ve played nine holes on Tuesday, nine holes on Wednesday and teed it up and played really well. Sometimes not knowing where the trouble is, ignorance is bliss in some ways,” said McIlroy before playing a practice round alongside Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power on Tuesday.
“For me, I’ll take execution over preparation any day. If you’re executing the shots and you’re hitting the ball well and the ball is looking where you’re going, that’s more than half the battle.
“I feel like I’m executing well. But it doesn’t mean you’re not preparing or looking at things. I think these greens require a little more time spent on them than some others.
“I think strategy off the tee and into the greens is pretty simple, and then it gets a little more nuanced whenever you get on and around the greens.”
The green complexes around Southern Hills will prove key to the outcome of his week’s PGA with wildly sloping putting surfaces surrounded by run-offs and tight lies that will put a premium on accuracy and recovery, with a sharp short-game vital to your Wanamaker Trophy chances.
McIlroy ranks 14th in strokes gained around the green on the PGA Tour this season and 38th in strokes gained putting, but it’s improvements in his greens in regulation percentages where he currently ranks 79th (67.31%) that have encouraged the Northern Irishman in recent weeks.
“One of the things I’ve tried to work on and I’ve done well, I’ve led greens in regulation the last two tournaments I’ve played. That’s something that hasn’t quite been there, and that’s something you need to do, especially around here,” McIlroy said.
“You hit greens here, you’re going to give yourself birdie chances. The targets are pretty small, pretty limited with where the hole locations will be, so you hit it into the middle of the greens here, you’re going to have decent chances. I’m feeling pretty good about that part of the game.”
With multiple wind directions in play this week on what’s expected to be a firm and fiery Southern Hills, McIlroy accepts that there’ll be learning done on the fly when the action gets underway on Thursday but he’s relishing the prospect.
“Yeah, I mean, you’re not going to practice from every bunker around the greens,” he added. “You’re not going to chip balls from every single side of a green.
“But for the most part, you just can’t miss the ball above the hole here because the greens are slopey and there’s quite a pitch from back to front on a lot of them.
“Even just stuff like that, not getting past pin high on some holes. You have a general idea of where the good miss is or where to leave it. But you’re going to encounter some stuff during the four days of play that you haven’t prepared for; missing it one side of a green instead of another. Things happen. We’re human; we’re not going to hit every shot perfectly.
“But that’s the great thing about our game. You have to adapt to these things and adapt to conditions. I mean, even, look, like the wind forecast this week, we’re going to have nearly four different winds for four days. So just stuff like that that you’re not going to be able to play the golf course in every single wind direction, so you’re just going to have to sometimes adapt on the fly.”
McIlroy plays the first two rounds in the company of Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
- Full tee-times HERE