Rory: Oakmont glory would be my greatest achievement
Rory McIlroy yesterday highlighted the rising anxiety levels among the top players as they get set for the US Open at Oakmont compared with the Masters.
World No 3 McIlroy annually approaches the first Major of the season with a sense of excitement, but this week the feeling is "trepidation".
"Trepidation, I guess. Yeah, excitement is a good way to describe Augusta, but it really depends on the venue that you play a US Open at as well," he said. "But, yeah, this week it's definitely not excitement. It's going to be quite the mental grind. You expect that coming into a US Open.
"It's the toughest test in golf, and you know that, and you have to do everything you can to prepare for that, and try to do your best."
But when the going gets tough, the best in the world get going, and that's why victory on a course that extensively stress-tests every weapon in a golfer's armoury would be special. McIlroy has already won four Majors, including the 2011 US Open, but an Oakmont win carries extra kudos.
This is the venue where legends Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus have triumphed, and McIlroy has a keen sense of history.
"To be able to win on a course like this with the conditions the way they are, it would probably be. . . maybe my biggest accomplishment in the game," he said. "But definitely it would make me feel like a more complete player, I guess."
Bad weather is expected to roll in today and tomorrow which could cause disruption and delays. If it does, McIlroy is ready.
"With a little bit of rain expected, but the weather to be good on the weekend, I can't imagine the conditions being much different to what we faced already these two days, and even last week," he said.
"I feel as prepared as I can be coming in here, and I feel like I've got a good game-plan for the course.
"It's just a matter of going out there and executing it."
The game plan McIlroy will employ includes reducing his use of the driver to a minimum in favour of a 2-iron, and doing all he can to maintain discipline.
That's not an easy call for a self-confessed aggressive golfer who likes to go for the jugular. When he's in full flight, hitting long, raking drives, and pitching it close to flagsticks, there is no finer sight in golf.
Oakmont will require a serious throttling back of the adrenalin and eagerness to attack. "I'm an aggressive player as well, so there's just going to be times where I'm going to have to rein it back a little bit," said McIlroy.
Meanwhile, Jack Hume overcame a disastrous start to his second qualifying round in the 121st Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl yesterday to grab one of the spots in the knock-out stages which begin today.
Having dropped six strokes in the first five holes, the Naas gritted his teeth to pick up two birdies and just one bogey to add a 76 to his creditable 70 the previous day at Pyle and Kenfig.
But it was the lesser-known Dundalk ace Caolan Rafferty who stole the show for the Irish as he swept into the knock-out phase with a 144 aggregate. Paul McBride, who plays out of The Island, also made it through as did Ballymena's Dermot McElroy and Sean Flanagan of County Sligo.