Wednesday 18 October 2017

Thomas Bjorn backs Rory McIlroy to bounce back into contention at US Open

Rory McIlroy (left) can contend for a second US Open title, according to former Ryder Cup team-mate Thomas Bjorn (right)
Rory McIlroy (left) can contend for a second US Open title, according to former Ryder Cup team-mate Thomas Bjorn (right)

Rory McIlroy can overcome an injury-hit campaign and contend for a second US Open title at Erin Hills this week, according to Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

McIlroy's season has been thrown into disarray by the rib injury suffered during extensive club testing over the winter, which initially kept him sidelined for six weeks after losing a play-off in the South African Open.

The world number two finished seventh, fourth and seventh in his first three strokeplay events on his return, but a recurrence of the problem during the Players Championship saw him withdraw from the BMW PGA Championship and Memorial Tournament.

That means the four-time major winner will have played just six events heading into the year's second major championship, an event he won in record-breaking style in 2011 but one in which he has since missed the cut twice and recorded a solitary top-10 finish.

Asked if the 28-year-old can defy the odds at Erin Hills, Bjorn told Press Association Sport: " He can do many things.

"He would love to have played more. He sets his mind on a schedule and that's what he's going to try to stick to and then when he can't do it he suffers a little bit in not getting the right preparation, but then you have to prepare another way.

"Great players adapt to the situation they are in and he is capable of adapting to it.

" It's never nice to play the biggest events if you haven't been playing competitive golf, but that isn't to say he can't go and do it."

McIlroy's absence from the BMW PGA Championship - the first Rolex Series event - was a big blow to the European Tour, especially after Wentworth had undergone a £5million renovation programme.

But Bjorn, who was involved in the changes made to the West Course, believes it was the right decision for McIlroy's future.

"He was just taking a sensible approach and getting it right before he came back out," the 46-year-old Dane added. "I can't see it being a long-term concern.

"With the strain he puts on his body he just can't play with small niggles, he has to have his body in top shape and it was an unfortunate thing. The whole world of golf suffers when he's not around but he'll get it right I'm sure. I can't see it being a threatening injury for the future."

Bjorn has not competed in the US Open since missing the cut at Olympic Club in 2012, but will be an interested spectator when the action gets under way on Thursday.

"The USGA won't make it easy for anyone," he added. "It's a US Open and sometimes they get it absolutely spot on and sometimes they don't. That's what happens in major championships.

"It's easier for the Masters at Augusta because it's the same course every year and courses react differently. Hopefully they get this one right and don't get over the top and let guys play. That's always been my philosophy with it - let guys play.

"This is the course you have, let them go out and show how good they are. Yes the US Open should be the toughest test of all, but it also needs to be able to be done and that's the balance to get right."

Press Association

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