Sport Golf

Monday 26 September 2016

Memorial boost gives McIlroy edge over 'Big Three' rivals

Phil Casey

Published 07/06/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Diamuid Greene/Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Diamuid Greene/Sportsfile

Rory McIlroy may have the lowest ranking of golf's 'Big Three', but the world No 3 will approach next week's US Open in better spirits than his rivals.

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Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy all entered last week's Memorial Tournament on the back of victories in their previous events and were expected to battle for the title at Muirfield Village.

However, only McIlroy featured at the top end of the leaderboard after a closing 68 gave him a share of fourth place on 13-under par, two shots out of the play-off between William McGirt and Jon Curran, which McGirt won on the second extra hole.

World No 1 Day closed with a 74 to finish in a tie for 27th, while Spieth's last outing before he defends his US Open title ended with rounds of 74 and 73 over the weekend to finish 57th.

McIlroy headed to Oakmont yesterday after a week in which he was first in strokes gained off the tee and seventh in driving distance at 307.1 yards.

"I'm hitting the driver great," the four-time Major winner said. "I think it more comes from confidence than anything else, that I can stand on the tee box and aim right down the middle of the fairway and swing as hard as I can really."

Switching

The 27-year-old, who won his first Major in the 2011 US Open, was also delighted with his putting after switching back to a conventional grip despite winning the Irish Open with his left hand below the right.

"If you look at the stats from my putting, I feel like it's been really good. So all things considered, it's been a decent week. Time to get ready for Oakmont," he said.

"It looks like an awesome golf course. It looks unbelievably hard and it will reward very good ball-striking. It's going to be tough.

"I remember watching a little bit of it back in '07 when (Angel) Cabrera won. I'd say you're probably going to expect a similar score [five over] to win this year again if conditions are the way they want them to be."

Meanwhile, Ian Poulter has been named as one of Europe's Ryder Cup vice captains after the Englishman wrote off his chances of making the team as a player.

The 40-year-old, expected to be out for four months because of arthritic problems in his right foot, is one of four vice-captains chosen by captain Darren Clarke for Hazeltine National in September.

"Everyone who knows me knows how much the Ryder Cup means, having given me memories to savour over the past 12 years and created friendships that will last a lifetime," said Poulter, who has played in the last five matches.

Irish Independent

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