Golf's Rory McIlroy seeks form ahead of US Open
08 Jun 2012 - 10:46:53
Three missed cuts in a row have cast a dark cloud over Rory McIlroy's preparations to defend his US Open crown at San Francisco's Olympic Club next week.
It was at last year's US Open at Congressional in Washington DC that McIlroy stunned the golfing world with his eight-stroke victory, the second biggest winning margin in the tournament since 1921, behind only Tiger Woods' famed 15-stroke victory at Pebble Beach in 2000.
He has not won another major since then, but his form remained good through the rest of last year and for the early part of this year, hoisting him to the world number one ranking.
Then, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, it all went pear-shaped.
It all started with rounds of 72 and 76 that saw him miss the Players Championship cut at Sawgrass in early May.
Then he failed to make the weekend after firing 74 and 79 at the PGA Championship at Wentworth followed by an early exit at the Memorial last week where Woods won again to get back to fourth in the world rankings.
It has all been very puzzling - even for McIlroy.
"I don't feel like the scores are actually reflecting how I'm hitting the ball," he said at Muirfield Village, host course for the Memorial.
"I hit some good shots. It just seems like every time I go out there I make one or two big numbers and that sort of throws me.
"I just need to keep working on it and try and string 18 good holes together, then two days, three days and ultimately four.
"I'm definitely hitting the ball better than I did last week so I can see an improvement there, but I've still got a long way to go."
With a tough US Open course like the Olympic Club no place for competitive experimentation, McIlroy decided to tee off at this week's St Jude Classic in Memphis.
He opened there with an encouraging round of 68 on Thursday saying it was "the best round of golf I played in a while."
First though he did fly out to California to test a course that will be holding the US Open for the first time since 1998 when Lee Janzen was the winner.
"I went out and played a little at Olympic Saturday evening, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. So I got three good days there, three full days and flew in here last night. So it was good. It was good to play a couple of rounds there and get a feel for the golf course," he said Wednesday in Memphis.
Now, he said, the key was to put himself back in contention in a tournament where he is the only one of the world top 10 signed up to play.
"I just need to get some more competitive rounds in. I feel like that's just what I need going into next week," he said.
"I would love to play well here and obviously try and win the tournament and that would give me a great confidence boost going into next week."
Encouragement for McIlroy has come from various sources and most notably from the legendary Jack Nicklaus, who also had words of advice for the Northern Irishman following his final round meltdown at last year's Masters when he led by four strokes going into the final round.
Nicklaus, who won an all-time best 18 majors during his career, said that in the end it all came down to hard work and getting the best of possible preparations.
"Rory right now is worrying how he is going to put that (his form) back together, but we all go through it," he said in an interview with CNN.
"I had the same problems. I went from 1967 to 1970 right in the prime of my career without winning a major. And I just found that I was probably lazy, I had too much success, I hadn't worked hard enough to prepare myself.
"I just worked myself out of it, then in 1970 I had success at the British Open and I was back again."