Sport Golf

Monday 9 December 2019

Rory McIlroy looks for positives as he switches his sights to US Open

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy left his calling card in the final round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village with an impressive string of birdies over the closing holes, but it was too little, too late, to affect the outcome of Jack Nicklaus' event.

Much as he would have liked to be shaking the Golden Bear's hand as champion of this $8.5 million extravaganza, McIlroy could take heart from his performance.

He shot 68 in a round which included six birdies, three of them in a row from holes 15 through 17 for a 13-under par 275 and a share of fourth place.

An added bonus was the world number three finishing off at the 18th just before the hooter blew to signal a stoppage of play due to the threat of lightning.

Just as the players got back to their positions after a 75-minute delay, another weather system rolled in, and the downpour caused another hold up before play could resume.

Ultimately it all evolved into a sudden death playoff between two players who had never won on Tour - William McGirt, 102 in the world rankings, and the 193rd-rated player, Jon Curran.

Both had closed on 15-under, McGirt finishing with a bogey-free 71, and Curran on 70. In the playoff, McGirt won with a par on the second extra hole.

None of that was any concern of McIlroy's. His race was run much earlier, and immediately he set his mind to plans for US Open preparations.

"I have to take the positives. There's a lot of good golf in there. Twenty five birdies. It's good," he said.

"There was a couple of dropped shots in there today, a couple of loose iron shots, a couple of soft bogeys over the first couple of days, but overall, I played well this week. It bodes well going into the US Open which is the big one that's on everyone's mind.

"It could have been better, but at least I'm happy that my game's going in the right direction and I'm driving the ball well, and also my putting feels a lot better," added McIlroy.

The change from the left-hand-low grip he used in winning the Irish Open to a conventional grip for The Memorial worked out.

McIlroy took 127 putts in winning at The K Club - "my ball striking won me that tournament" - but at Muirfield he had 107 hits with the short stick.

"Very encouraging signs for the first week back," said McIlroy. "I worked hard on it last week.

"I knew I had to do something. I feel comfortable with what I'm doing, and thankfully it showed this week.

"I held a lot of nice putts this week, and I held a lot of nice putts today coming in."

McIlroy travelled to Oakmont last night, and planned to play there this afternoon and tomorrow morning.

He will then return to his home in Florida and practice there for the rest of this week.

"At least I can get two good looks at the golf course, and then go back up to Oakmont on the Monday night. I can play a practice round on the Tuesday and Wednesday and get into the tournament," he said.

Jason Day, the world number one, shot 74 for nine-under, while Jordan Spieth could only get to three under after a closing 73.

In European action, England's Matt Fitzpatrick, 21, won his second Tour title in the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slott GC near Stockholm.

Fitzpatrick led by five coming into the last round and shot 71 for 16-under par aggregate of 272 to win by three from Danish runner-up Lasse Jensen.

Jensen's 68 and -13, was enough to gain him entry to the Open Championship at Troon.

Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey shot 77 for three-over par 291, while Peter Lawrie's 78 pushed him to a four over 292.

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