McIlroy relishing US open like conditions at the Memorial

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy blew away the field to win his US Open title in 2011 at a soft and vulnerable Congressional but he now admits he relishes the prospect of a firm and fast challenge next week in Pinehurst.

McIlroy showed the kind of brilliant patience he has sometimes lacked in majors and will definitely need next week as he scrambled for par on five of his last six holes to stay in contention at the halfway stage of the Memorial Tournament.

McIlroy carded a one-under 71 which at the time was just three off the pace set by Canada’s Adam Hadwin but a sensational Scottie Scheffler charge late in the day has opened up a six shot gap to McIlroy.

“Scrambled well, made a tonne of pars, stayed patient,” McIlroy said, adding that he now relishes the challenge of a US Open as he hunts a maiden win at Muirfield Village this week.

“This is probably more US Open-like than the US Open’s going to be next week,” McIlroy said, smiling. “I think just that mindset of being patient and making as many pars as possible, I think that’s going to be the MO for next week as well.”

McIlroy often plays his best on soft, long golf courses and for a long time he was tagged with not being able to produce his best when conditions became firm and fast where pars were good scores.

The Holywood man has not won a major in almost exactly ten years but he is a much more rounded player since 2014 and now he licks his lips ahead of a firm and fast US Open next week.

“Yeah, I really liked LACC last year,” he said. “After the Open in 2019, I’d had a disappointing run in the toughest tests and in the Majors, and I just tried to change my mindset.

“I remember writing in the little golf journal that I keep about trying to build my game to suit the toughest venues that we go to.”

McIlroy went on a dismal record in the US Open after his 2011 win and after he missed his third cut in a row in 2018, he’s turned a corner, finishing ninth, eighth, seventh, fifth and second in his last five US Open starts.

“If you look at my results in the US Open and some of the toughest tests from then until now I would say the US Open’s arguably been my best Major championship in the last few years.”

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes McIlroy is better equipped than he has ever been to cope with the conditions despite not playing into his wheelhouse as he looks to land that elusive fifth major.

“I think he’s better equipped than he’s ever been before but I don’t think he’s going to excel in those conditions. He’s equipped to play better in them than in the past. His chipping is fantastic. We saw it last week in Canada. Fantastic.

“I think he’ll have an advantage around Pinehurst because of his ability to chip, there’s a lot of chipping, a lot of roll-off areas. He’s one of the best chippers in the game for all the talk of his long hitting. I think his putting is in good shape.

“I’ve said it many many times, he’s a better golfer now than he was before. There’s no weakness in his game now. You can’t say his wedge is bad. It’s good. He’s one of the best players ranked around 100 yards on tour.

“Take his putting. He holes a lot of footage putts. And if they don’t go in, they go really close.”

Meanwhile, Séamus Power fell off the pace with a two-over 74 for a two-under total while Shane Lowry is back on plus three.


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