I haven't played well enough when it has counted, admits Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy might have failed to win from the final group four times this year but despite his problematic wedge game he believes he's "close" to firing on all cylinders again and capable of winning major number five.
The Holywood star has won two US PGA titles since 2012 and he knows that if he continues to put himself in contention as he has done all season, the door may finally open for him at Bellerive Country Club where "quintessential target golf" will be the order of the day.
"It's certainly close," said McIlroy, who tees it up with Tiger Woods and defending champion Justin Thomas in the first two rounds on what will be a long and soft course.
"I mean, I've kept giving myself chances this year. I haven't closed out those tournaments as I would have liked, but at least I'm putting myself in position, and that's all I can do.
"The only thing I haven't done is win enough. I've given myself a lot of chances. I played in a lot of final groups and I haven't played well enough when it's counted.
"So that's something that I'm just trying to go through and try to figure out what I need to do to make that little step from contending and getting into final groups to lifting trophies."
His wedge play, especially inside 100 yards, is a glaring weakness in his game and while he's working hard to improve, he feels his swing is close to where it was in 2014 with the proviso that his body is now different.
"I've definitely become a little more rotational in my swing over the past couple of years, and some of that is through bad habit and some of that is through injury," he said, adding that the only major he feels he had a real chance to win since 2014 was The Open at Carnoustie last month.
"The last time I won a Major in 2014 at Valhalla, I think that's one of the best times I swung the club really well at that point in time."
McIlroy added: "And the feelings that I have now, it's just hard for me to get into those positions, and if I do get into those positions, it will make me a better wedge player.
"But it's a process. I've gotten into a couple of bad habits, as you said, and that just makes it a little tougher for me to be consistent with a shorter club in my hand."
Even Woods will have to re-learn have to win Majors and McIlroy is nothing but impressed by the 14-time Major winner's recovery from injury.
"Geez, I mean, 18 months ago the guy couldn't walk," he said. "He was in bed. He just had his fourth back surgery, so to get to this point is a phenomenal achievement already."
He added: "Even though he's won 14 of these things, you still, if you haven't done it for a while, you still have to re-learn a few things, and I think he's going through that stage."
For his part, Woods admits he will have plenty of homework to do as he looks to claim a 15th major title in the US PGA Championship.
Woods was among the players due to compete at Bellerive Country Club in 2001 when the WGC-American Express Championship was cancelled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The 42-year-old also missed the 2008 BMW Championships at the same venue due to injury and was only able to play five holes in practice before his pre-tournament press conference yesterday due to thunderstorms.
"I literally haven't set foot on this golf course since that week in 2001," Woods said.
"I didn't get up here pre British Open and yesterday (Monday) I took the day off.
"Today we only got in five holes and didn't really get a chance to see a whole lot, so I'll have to do some more homework tomorrow and get a good feel for what's going on for the rest of the week.
"I needed that day off. I spent a few times in the ice bath just trying to get some inflammation down and just trying to get ready for the rest of the week.
"There's going to be certain days that I'm just not going to have the speed and the flexibility and the movement that I once did. I'm 42 now and I've had four back surgeries. So things are going to be different from day-to-day, and it's just about managing it."
Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery in April last year and admits he feels "blessed" simply to be able to compete again, but has already failed to convert several chances to claim his first victory since 2013.
The 14-time Major winner finished second behind Paul Casey in the Valspar Championship in March and was in contention at Bay Hill the following week before driving out of bounds on the 16th hole of the final round.
Most significantly, Woods also led the Open at Carnoustie with eight holes to play, only to double bogey the 11th and drop another shot on the next as playing partner Francesco Molinari went on to lift the Claret Jug.
"To go from missing the cut in the US Open to contending and at one point leading the Open on the back nine, it felt good. It felt very familiar," Woods added.
"Unfortunately, I made two mistakes there on 11 and 12 and it cost me a chance to win the championship. I felt like I was in control of what I was doing, and that felt good. I just didn't do it."