Wiser McIlroy to sacrifice length off tee in bid to beat Sawgrass blues
THE stars seemed to be falling nicely into line in the golfing firmament yesterday as PGA champion Keegan Bradley confirmed he'll play in next month's Irish Open at Royal Portrush and Rory McIlroy reported for Players Championship duty at Sawgrass.
Though US Open champion McIlroy missed the cut on his only two appearances at Sawgrass in 2009 and 2010 and complained of not liking the course, he admitted yesterday that skipping The Players last year "wasn't one of my brightest moments."
McIlroy recently admitted that misguided loyalty to the views of former agent Chubby Chandler had helped lead him "down the wrong path, or a path I didn't want to go down" last May.
McIlroy returns to The Players this week determined, with the aid of a trusted old two-iron, to find an answer to the perplexing questions he faces on so many tees at Sawgrass.
It makes sense for Ireland's world No 1 to play in the PGA Tour's showpiece alongside Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Co.
So, what is it about Sawgrass and other Pete Dye courses McIlroy doesn't like? "I find it very awkward off the tee," he explains. "You're hitting across fairways all the time.
"That's the main reason I'll put the two-iron in the bag this week (instead of the five-wood), because even hitting the three-wood on some of those holes, it goes a little too far.
"Sacrificing some distance makes the targets a little bigger and I don't mind going into the green with a five-iron instead of a seven-iron. If you're hitting your second shots from the fairway here, it makes it a lot easier."
McIlroy reckons he may also need that two-iron to help pick his away around The Olympic Club on his US Open title defence and during the British Open at Lytham.
Amusingly, McIlroy revealed yesterday: "I was more nervous meeting Tiger for the first time than I was meeting President Obama"-- a chance encounter with boyhood idol Woods occurred eight years ago in the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio in San Diego when he was just 15.
"I was a little star-struck. Since the age of six, I'd watched him on TV doing things no one else could," explained McIlroy, who insisted he's never felt intimidated by anybody on the golf course.
Of strong Boston-Irish stock, Bradley expressed delight at the prospect of playing the Irish Open.
"I'm proud of my Irish heritage and have always wanted to play in the Irish Open," said Bradley, whose roots are in Co Cork.