Rory McIlroy hit the Bellerive practice range Monday in searing 100-degree (F) temperatures looking to pick-up the pieces from Sunday’s Bridgestone meltdown.
He tees-up this week a double champion in the 100th staging of the PGA Championship on the Bellerive Country Club course located to the north of the city famous for the ‘Gateway to the West’ arch.
McIlroy, wearing shorts, again had long-time coach Michael Bannon on hand with ‘Team McIlroy’ arriving into the State of Missouri late Sunday night.
The new World No. 5 played the final round of the final Bridgestone Invitational in the company of Justin Thomas, with the American easily shouldering McIlroy aside to win by four shots.
McIlroy, who dropped as low as 10th place late on Sunday, did birdie the 17th but far too late in round of 73 for a share of sixth and now has just three days to regroup following last Sunday’s disappointment before again being grouped with the 25-year old Thomas, along with Tiger Woods, for the first two rounds of the year’s final Major.
Thomas, who won his first Major in capturing last year’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, is joint favourite with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson to make it back-to-back Rodman Wanamaker trophies and, if successful, ‘JT’ would be the first to do so since Woods in 2006 and 2007.
“I’m just in a great place mentally right now, I just was so patient and calm all last week,” said Thomas.
“I mean, I think I made six bogeys all week, something like that, which is pretty good around Akron. Everybody knows just some days, some weeks you wake up and you’re happy and you’re in a good spot and some weeks you don’t, and last week I just felt so good about my game.”
McIlroy had singled out Thomas’ ‘nasty’ streak last week in learning he would be grouped with Thomas for this week’s Major and with the duo often practicing together back in Florida.
“I like JT’s attitude over everything else,” said McIlroy.
“He’s got a nasty streak in him, which I think you need out here. He has that. When he gets himself in the hunt, you can see like a little twinkle in his eye and he really enjoys it”.
McIlroy clearly has a fight on his hands come Thursday in dimming that twinkle and not allowing Thomas to go 3up over him come next Saturday.