Thursday 23 November 2017

Rory McIlroy provides positive injury update as he gets ready for Major tilt after enduring 'frustrating' run


Rory McIlroy putts during a practice round prior to the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills
Rory McIlroy putts during a practice round prior to the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills
Rory McIlroy plays a shot from a bunker during yesterday’s practice round ahead of US Open, which starts on Thursday. Photo: GETTY

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy insists the rib injury that has decimated his season will not stop him aggressively chasing his fifth Major win in this week's US Open at Erin Hills.

The world No 2 confessed that it's been "frustrating" that the stress fracture he picked up in January has forced him to miss as many events as he has played this year - six.

But he's adamant it will not be a factor over the rolling fairways of 7,693-yard Erin Hills, where he hopes he can be aggressive and end his near three-year Major drought.

"It's feeling really good," McIlroy said of his rib injury. "It's been a frustrating year because it has been such a niggling injury.

"It sort of comes and goes but I feel like I have figured out what to do to have it not reoccur again.

"It is all about managing my practice schedule and not overdoing it and making sure I have plenty of energy to come out on the course and just play.

"So it's all good. I'm feeling good to be here and excited for the week."

Following his play-off defeat in the BMW SA Open in January - the event where he first complained of the stress fracture he reckons he picked up hitting too many balls in his search for new equipment - McIlroy has been a constant absentee.

Forced to miss the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open, the Honda Classic, the BMW PGA and the Memorial Tournament, he hasn't hit a competitive shot since he finished 35th in The Players at TPC Sawgrass a month ago.

Former Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley fears the Holywood star has simply not played enough competitive golf to be a factor this week.

McGinley said: "You can hit as many golf balls as you like in practice. But there is no substitute for playing plenty of rounds in tournament conditions. So Rory's preparation for this event has been far from ideal.

"It is going to be difficult for him to go toe-to-toe with other top guys who have been playing - and winning - on a regular basis. The US Open is a real battle."

McIlroy has tried to make up for lost time by getting to Erin Hills early, walking the course on Friday and playing practice rounds Saturday, Sunday and again yesterday.

With wide, rolling fairways; deep, fescue rough; and testing crosswinds, he's excited about the challenge and reckons it should suit his big-hitting, aggressive style.

"I like it, I really do," he said. "I've heard a lot about Erin Hills for the past four or five years, since we knew we were coming here. It's definitely lived up to expectations.

"I got a good look at it on Friday when I walked it and I played yesterday and on Sunday. For a US Open venue it's a little more generous that we have seen in the past, which is great.

"I think it will allow guys to be aggressive. You hit a lot of drivers around here and you can be aggressive with your iron shots. It gets a little tricky on the greens sometimes but it will be a good test."

Rated a 14-1 shot with the bookies behind favourite Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, McIlroy is convinced his ball-striking prowess will pay dividends.

Before heading out for a practice round with Max Greyserman and amateurs Cameron Champ and Walker Lee, he added: "You need to be in control of your iron play and be able to work the ball right to left and left to right against the wind. You have to be able to keep the ball down because the fairways aren't running too much and I don't think they will run that much either."

Irish Independent

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