Rory McIlroy is hoping familiarity breeds success heading into today’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
This will be McIlroy’s 38th Major Championship and he has spent the last week honing his game virtually up-and-down the length of New York’s Long Island.
In fact, McIlroy says he’s played 18 rounds of golf in the past 19 days
“I came up here straight after Memorial and I played the day after and played a few of the courses in the area,” he said.
“From the BMW PGA Championship and including the Memorial I’ve actually played 18 out of 19 days but then I took a day off on Saturday just to sort of try to recharge the batteries.
“But it’s been a lot of fun. It’s not a bad place to spend a couple of weeks in the summer.
“I first played here at Shinnecock Hills back in 2014 and it has definitely been a U.S. Open I have been looking forward to.
“And having had a few good looks at the golf course over the past few days and now just looking forward to getting started now.
“I’m also happy I’ve got an early tee time (8.02am local/1.02pm Irish) as it feels like I’ve been here for quite a while, so anxious to get started tomorrow.”
McIlroy is 12/1 second favourite with Paddy Power to capture a second U.S. Open and if so, a long overdue fifth Major after his last Major success in winning the 2015 Open.
“My game feels good as I’ve played myself into a few final groups the last few tournaments,” he said.,
“The first Major of the year, I played well. I sort of struggled a little bit on Sunday but I’ve got a win this year at the Arnold Palmer, which is great.
“I’ve gotten myself into contention quite a few times. So, I would love to do that again this week. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve been in the mix at this Championship.
“So, with how my game feels, hopefully I can do the right things over the first few days and put myself in a position to win another one.”
McIlroy will contest the opening two rounds in the company of fellow U.S. Open winning Jordan Spieth and also five-time Major winning, Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson is teeing-up in his 27th U.S. Open and seeking to win the event, and after being runner-up on six occasions, that would see him become only the sixth golfer to win the Grand Slam.
“Look, Phil’s had six runner-ups at this event and he’s played wonderfully,” said McIlroy.
“It’s just someone’s played a little better at a certain week or maybe he made a mistake at the wrong time. It’s not as if he’s had a poor U.S. Open record. His U.S. Open record is incredible.
“This week is another opportunity for him, as it will be for Jordan (Spieth) at the PGA, as it will be for me again next year April.
“You’ve got to go out and play the best you can and not think about what it means, just think about trying to win a golf tournament, which Phil has 50-odd times in his career.”
But then McIlroy clearly revealed his ultra-competitive side in confessing that he’s out to beat Mickelson and all other 153 Shinnecock Hills competitors.
“Look, if I wasn’t playing and just purely as a fan of golf, I’d love to see Phil win this week because it’s great for the game,” he said.
“It’s a huge story in the game of golf, and as someone involved in the game, I think it would be really cool for that to happen.
“But seeing as I’m playing in the tournament, I’d rather beat him and not have that happen. But if it isn’t me that wins this week, it would be a great story if Phil was to win.”
And McIlroy had the perfect response when quizzed if he was concerned about missing his tee time this week and given those staying at hotels south of the Shinnecock Hills and in the direction of New York City were taking over two-hours to get to the course.
“No, it’s only three minutes door-to-door so there’s no problem where we are staying this week,” he said smiling.
“I don’t know if we were very smart or very lucky in booking the house we have, so we are fine.
“I know it is taking people from an hour to an hour-and-a-hour so you are just going to have to set-off early to avoid the traffic and it is the way it is given this piece of land is small in size.”
And before heading out for a final practice round McIlroy was asked if this week’s U.S. Open, and a fourth at Shinnecock Hills, is all about being tested or punished, McIlroy responded: “Tested, but punished if you hit a bad shot.”