McIlroy on Major march as he is favourite at Valhalla
World No 1 overcomes difficult conditions to keep the heat on rivals at Valhalla
RORY McILROY has the blinkers on and like California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby at nearby Churchill Downs, is a red-hot favourite to cross the finishing line in first place at the US PGA tomorrow.
McIlroy raced into the early clubhouse lead at Valhalla yesterday after a second-round 67 in demanding conditions propelled the 25-year-old to nine-under par for his opening 36 holes.
With exception of Tiger Woods, there are few more formidable front-runners than the Holywood star but McIlroy will not allow the welter of excitement which has grown up around him since last month's British Open victory at Hoylake knock him out of his stride.
"I expect to stick to my game plan. I expect to execute my shots. I expect to do the things I can control," he said coolly.
"I can't control the outcome or what other people do. Do I expect to win? No.
"But do I expect to do the things I know I can do? Yes! And I know if I do those well, there's a good chance that I'll win."
McIlroy's confidence has appeared impermeable in the past three months as he surged to World No 1 on the back of victories at the BMW PGA, British Open and last week in Firestone, leading some to wonder how his career could flourish after an event in his personal life as big as May's decision to call off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
Asked how he managed to play as well as he had in recent months after such an upheaval, McIlroy said: "Well, I think it has happened to me for the better. I've put a little more time into my golf and it has refocused me in a way.
"I'm not saying that golf is the only thing I have in my life. I have my family and friends but I've just immersed myself in my game. I've practised hard and I've done all the right things and I'm reaping the rewards."
He admitted yesterday's round was "a little more stressful" than Thursday's 66 but added "it's fun ... the last month has been fun. When I'm playing like this, it's obviously very enjoyable and I can't wait to get out on the course again tomorrow and do the same thing all over again."