Sport Golf

Friday 19 September 2014

Rory McIlroy feels 'love' for Pinehurst Major mission

Karl MacGinty

Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is interviewed during a press conference prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is interviewed during a press conference prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

NOW golf once again is the No 1 love of his life, Rory McIlroy hopes it'll be requited with further Major championship honours, starting with this week's US Open at Pinehurst.

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McIlroy has filled the vacuum following his recent break-up with fiancee Caroline Wozniacki by "burying my head" in his sport and "finding my love for the game again".

And it's bound to pay dividends on the course, says the Ulsterman, who believes he's capable of winning two of this year's remaining three Majors.

"I'm just really enjoying my golf at the minute," McIlroy explained. "I feel like my game is in a good place and I wanted to try and prolong that as much as I can."

"I was down in Florida last week, the weather was good and there was no better place to spend it than out on the course, playing golf, practising and just messing around in the short game area.

"Trying different shots, different sorts of techniques, to make the ball do different things and I'm really enjoying it," added McIlroy. "I'm finding my love for the game again."

He's certainly spent more time hitting balls on the range this week than at recent Majors.

"I wouldn't call it hard work, because it's fun when you're out there and trying different things and practising.

"You're always looking at way to improve, being able to bring it to the course and test it under Major championship conditions.

"I want to live my life like a normal 25-year-old. I know that's hard to do because of the spotlight I'm under, but I'm playing and practising and doing all I can to be the best player I can be. Of course, you need a balance in your life, where you are interested in other things. I'm no different than any other 25-year-old, I want to go out, see my friends and have some fun.

"It was nice to spend a lot of time at home (in Palm Beach, Florida) and go out on the water a little bit," McIlroy revealed, adding that he's "stayed off social media for the most part of the last few weeks and I'm going to continue that for the foreseeable future."

McIlroy called off his engagement to Denmark's former world No 1 tennis player Wozniacki just before last month's BMW PGA Championship... then romped to his first European Tour victory in 18 months at Wentworth.

Unlike many other 25-year-olds, McIlroy was able to receive counsel from Jack Nicklaus last week and believes advice he got from the golf legend, who counts four US Opens among his record 18 Major titles, will stand to him this week at Pinehurst.

"We'd a great conversation about everything," he said. "Business, golf brand, the whole lot. I feel very honoured I'm able to call him up for advice if I need to. He's been very generous with his time.

"He was a great US Open player and, hopefully, some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week."

Nicklaus was curious to discover "how the heck" McIlroy could shoot 63 one day and 78 the next at Memorial, the tournament Jack hosts at Muirfield Village.

It's not easy for McIlroy to explain the perplexing discrepancy between his performance on Thursday and Friday on the PGA Tour this year.

Though No 1 in America for his first-round scoring average of 67.63, the Holywood native is 192nd – ahead of only Henrik Stenson and Bobby Gates – with a second-round average of 73.5.

A bad nine-hole stretch in round two at Augusta scuppered his chances of winning the Masters and McIlroy will need to correct that tendency tomorrow, Friday the 13th, if he's to have any chance of winning a second US Open and third Major title in Pinehurst.

As his form and confidence flourishes, McIlroy described his goal of winning two Majors this summer as "definitely reasonable".

"You have to go back to Padraig Harrington in 2008 for the last multiple Major-winner in a single year," he said, "but I feel my game's in a good enough place where I can give myself a chance to do that."

Irish Independent

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