US Open: Rory McIlroy aiming for mid-60s start at Pebble Beach

Written by on 13/06/2019

Rory McIlroy has highlighted the importance of getting his US Open campaign off to a strong start as he chases his first major victory since 2014.

McIlroy is determined to play with the type of “freedom” that swept him to a superb seven-shot win over a high-quality field at last week’s RBC Canadian Open, where a final-round 61 earned his second title on the PGA Tour this year following his first at The Players Championship in March.

The 30-year-old was delighted to give himself the ideal confidence boost heading into the third major of the season at Pebble Beach, and he is determined to avoid being “behind the eight ball” after the opening round.

McIlroy has opened with one 65, two 66s and a 67 in his previous four major championship victories, and he was reminded by 1973 US Open champion Johnny Miller of how vital it is to be under the card and not needing to play catch-up going into the weekend.

“Johnny told me that if you look at the history of major championships, that first round is so important,” said McIlroy, who has missed the cut in each of the last three US Opens. “My first rounds at Augusta and Bethpage this year put me a little bit behind the eight ball.

“And it’s hard to catch up, especially with major championships being played on the toughest courses, and when you start to chase on those really tough courses, it’s hard to do that.

“The majors that I’ve won, I’ve started every single one of them really well, all with rounds in the mid-60s, and I think that’s what’s held me back a little bit.

“If I can take that freedom that I played with on Saturday and Sunday in Canada and get off to a good start, I’ll be hopefully right in the tournament from the get-go and stay there.”

But McIlroy is also wary of dwelling too much on his outstanding form in Ontario, adding: “Last week is over, it’s done, and you move on to the next week. And I keep saying that’s what’s wonderful about golf, whether you win or lose, you go to the next week and it’s forgotten about and you start again.

“You can’t dwell on success or failure, and you just move forward and keep looking forward. And I think that’s the best way to approach if you win one week and you’re trying to go into the next week and do the same thing.”

The 2011 US Open champion feels his form and confidence is at a similar level to the latter part of the 2016 season, when he snatched the FedExCup crown with a scintillating victory at the Tour Championship on the eve of the Ryder Cup.

“I think confidence is important for everyone,” he said. “I don’t think you can play to the best of your ability if you don’t have confidence and belief in yourself. Whether that’s more important for me than other people, maybe.

“But I think the last time I felt this free was back at the Play-Offs in 2016. I felt really good, and then going into the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, I felt like that was a real good stretch of golf that I played.”

And, while McIlroy admits that patience is usually a critical asset in a US Open, he does feel that Pebble Beach will offer plenty of birdie opportunities and hinted that he could opt to “get after it” as he did at Congressional in 2011 when he coasted to his first major title by eight shots.

“It’s completely different golf and a different mindset, but at the same time, sometimes you can go into the US Open thinking that par is a good score and, all of a sudden, you see someone is five or six under. I could see someone shooting in the sort of 65, 66 range this week, it’s definitely out there.

“Pars are never going to be a bad score at a US Open, but you’ve got so many wedges and opportunities to make birdies on this golf course. You’re not going to go chase every pin, but at the same time this course does offer you opportunities to make birdies.

“If you are playing well, you don’t need to settle for pars, you can go out there and get after it and that’s sort of what I did at Congressional. Obviously the course was a little softer and the conditions a bit more benign, but if you’re playing well, it doesn’t have to be the typical ‘grind out your pars’.”

(c) Sky News 2019: US Open: Rory McIlroy aiming for mid-60s start at Pebble Beach

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