Rory McIlroy will use ‘nuggets of wisdom’ from Jack Nicklaus
By Bernie D'Amato under US Open


Rory is the favorite to win the U.S. Open, and he seems to be in a strong mental state as he makes his final tune-up for tomorrow’s opening round. McIlroy believes his game is ready to contend at Pinehurst and beyond, “I’ve got three majors left this season, and I do feel like my game is good enough to be able to contend in all of them.”

Rory’s winning strategy is a conservative one, “In the 72 holes I’m hopefully going to play here, I mean, I might go at five pins, if they’re pins that are accessible, pins that you feel confident that you can get to. With the way these greens are, the green complexes, anything in the middle of the green is a really good shot.”

Playing smart and staying patient were not something McIlroy had to worry about at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. McIlroy set the scoring record (16-under), and beat his closest competitor, Jason Day, by eight strokes in the soft conditions. He put on a phenomenal ball-striking display that had everyone shaking their heads. However, this week, Rory wants to show he can win on a firm and fast golf course as well, “It’s conditions that I haven’t won on before, and I’d love to be able to prove to myself, but prove to other people that I can win in different conditions.”

We all know what happens when Rory’s swing is on, but he mentioned creativity around the greens is key, “You can bump-and-run or you can putt it or you can fly it on the putting surface. And that’s why I said at the start, you’re going to have to be imaginative, you’re going to have to be inventive and creative. You’re going to have to be really creative around these greens.” McIlroy also spoke about being creative from the native areas because of the variety of lies you can get.

A light moment in the press conference came when a reporter asked Rory if he misses Tiger, and Rory said in jest “I’m sad. I miss him, yes.”

After the joke, McIlroy said he hopes to see Tiger on the links soon because of the atmosphere he creates, “He has been the face of golf for the last 15, 20 years and golf is a better sport and a better place with Tiger Woods in it. So, hopefully, he has a speedy recovery and he gets back on the course soon, because any tournament where Tiger Woods is a factor he creates a big buzz.”

Rory is friends with Tiger as well as Jack Nicklaus. Both men have won the career grand slam a whopping three times. Last week, McIlroy had a lengthy conversation with then Golden Bear, which included his 63-78 start at The Memorial, “I spent two hours with Jack Nicklaus last week in his office in Palm Beach, and had a great sort of conversation about everything, business, golf, brand, the whole lot. And I got a lot from that. And he said to me, he goes, ‘How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 70th?’ I said, ‘I wasn’t meaning to, Jack. I’m trying not to.’ He said to me he was never afraid to change things up in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well, he felt like he wasn’t swinging well. He’d make a swing change right then and there. The mental strength to be able to do that and trust what you’re doing.”

He also received U.S. Open advice from the greatest of all-time, “But I had a great conversation with Jack and I feel very honored that I’m able to call him up for advice, if I need to. And he’s been very generous with his time. It was great to spend some time with him last week. Some of the things he said to me, I’m really thinking about going into this week. He was a great U.S. Open player and hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week.”

Jack’s advice may be helpful as will taking out a wedge and putting in a 3-iron for several of the tee shots at Pinehurst. However, what will help Rory the most is his confidence, “Really finding my love for the game again. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing.”

–Bernie D’Amato (@bdamato711)