Friday 19 January 2018

Rory McIlroy: I won't dwell on missing recent cuts

World No 1 refuses to dwell on recent missed cuts and insists he has 'full control' of his game ahead of assault on US Open

Rory McIlroy insists there will be no repeat of the 'brain-dead' performance and missed cut he suffered at the US Open in 2013
Rory McIlroy insists there will be no repeat of the 'brain-dead' performance and missed cut he suffered at the US Open in 2013

Rory McIlroy is discovering that there is a virtue in volatility.

In his last five starts he has savoured two victories, both at an elegant canter, and missed the cut by margins wider than the majestic Puget Sound that fringes this sun-scorched Chambers Bay course.

One moment he is shooting a 61 at Quail Hollow, the next he is reeling away with an 80 on the Royal County Down links that he used to devour before breakfast as a teenager. As with many a genius, the portents of calamity are never far from the surface.


Except McIlroy would not have it any other way. A pair of abject performances, first at Wentworth and then at the Irish Open that he was hosting, might have addled the mind of any other player seeking a second US Open title this week, but the 26-year-old has learned to accept that he is perhaps innately mercurial.

"I didn't want to miss those two cuts in Europe, but I think that's just the way I'm going to be," he reflected.

"I'd rather be in a six-tournament spell and have three wins and three missed cuts than six top-10s. Volatility in golf is actually a good thing. If your good weeks are really good, then they far outweigh the bad. Golf is so top-heavy like that."

It is a slightly odd credo for the world's No 1 player to espouse. It would never work in basketball, for example, where LeBron James, one of McIlroy's personal idols, has this month single-handedly inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers - statistically considered the third worst of the last 62 teams to reach the NBA finals - by dint of his own metronomic brilliance.

McIlroy can afford the occasional unravelling and yet he is far from shy, just like James, of affirming his status as the greatest talent in his sport on the planet.

"When LeBron talks that, it's not confidence, just a fact," McIlroy said last night. "I feel the same way when I look at the world rankings and see my name at the top. If you look back at the last five years, I have won more Majors than anyone else over that period. Do I feel like the best player in the world? Yes. And I want to go out every week and try to back that up."

Bullish talk, to be sure, although McIlroy has been at pains since his implosion in County Down to make himself invisible. For a week he did not even pick up a club, preferring instead to turn into a tourist again by pounding the streets of London, walking 10 miles a day and paying his maiden visit to the London Eye. The result, on this latest evidence, is a fresher, clearer-sighted golfer.

McIlroy, upon his restoration to the tournament that yielded his first Major title in 2011 by the small matter of eight strokes, appears ready to get in touch with his more explosive side.

"That win meant an awful lot," he said, reliving the coronation at Congressional that made the world wake up to the true scale of his gifts.

"It was about being able to call myself a Major champion, to get the tally up and running early. It gives me a lot of confidence to draw on those memories."

McIlroy would extend his arc to golfing immortality in the event of further glory here in the Pacific Northwest, keeping pace with the accomplishments of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods at the same age, while also elevating himself to the company of Phil Mickelson and Seve Ballesteros with a fifth Major triumph.

As the reigning Open champion, the sight of Chambers Bay, a quirky jewel carved out of the Tacoma bluffs and a place where the slightest error can be punished by an excursion to knee-high fescue rough, should bring a comforting familiarity. But he raised a few eyebrows by suggesting that the tournament he was most reminded of this week was the Open at Muirfield in 2013.


On that occasion, McIlroy was a husk of his usual freewheeling self, shooting a first-round 79 in which he later confessed to feeling "unconscious" and "brain-dead". But he seemed breezily unbothered here about the danger of succumbing to such a nightmare again.

"I'm a completely different player, in a completely different place. I had no control of my game at that time, whereas I'm in pretty much full control of it at the minute. I can tell you that a repeat of that is definitely not going to happen."

Chambers Bay does not tend to accommodate this level of certainty. It can inflict maximum embarrassment on even the most cocksure of players, as Masters champion Jordan Spieth found out when he shot 83 in the first round of US Open qualifying in 2010.

The potential for chaos this week, such is the United States Golf Association's almost sadistic obsession with keeping every player above par, is self-evident.

But McIlroy wears the jaunty demeanour of one intending to ride serenely through the storm.

Irish Independent

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