U.S. Open: With Rory McIlroy on a roll, get out of the way


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – After three consecutive missed cuts at the U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy changed his plan of attack this year for the national championship.

Made sense.

Good move, too.

McIlroy, who called his play in the U.S. Open the last three years “pathetic,” decided to play his way into this week’s event after not doing so previously. He headed north of the border to the RBC Canadian Open, where he turned his major-championship tune-up into a highlight reel and routed the field by seven shots before heading to Pebble Beach.

He was the best McIlroy there is, his stunning talents in full flight as he made the game look easy, especially on the weekend when he shot 64-61. He was in a zone, swinging freely, hitting the driver a lot and hitting it hard, and he was more than happy to slam the pedal to the metal.

“It’s almost like you’re out of your own body and looking at yourself play,” McIlroy said. “If I could bottle that feeling and take it with me week to week, I would. Sort of comes and goes.”

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By the looks of things, it isn’t going anywhere this week and he clearly is one of the few to beat. The world No. 3 has played 12 events this year and posted 10 top-10s, including victories in the RBC Canadian Open and The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

It was just a few months ago McIlroy was preaching patience as he kept putting himself in position to win only to come up just short. Now he’s in prime position to win his fifth major championship and first since the 2014 PGA Championship.

Bet against him at your peril.

“I feel like the golf that I played last week is what I’m capable of and the golf that I’ll obviously try to produce more often,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “You’re obviously not going to go out and shoot those scores every weekend, but it’s nice when it happens. It was a nice way to come into this tournament.”

Rory McIlroy chips to the 10th green during a Tuesday practice round at the 2019 U.S. Open. (Photo: Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports)

When McIlroy gets on a roll, you get out of the way. He can overpower any course, can overwhelm any field. He’s as good with the driver in his hands as anyone in the game. He added a fourth wedge to his bag – he took out the 3-iron – and his game from 140 yards and in is stellar. And when he putts well, well, few can hang with him.

And his mind has been on point all year.

“I feel like my game has been in pretty good shape all year, and it was nice to validate the good work that I’ve been putting in with another win,” said McIlroy, who won his 16th PGA Tour title last week, his 25th title worldwide. It was his fourth victory by at least seven shots.

“But it’s obviously very hard to play with that amount of freedom if you’re not confident in your golf swing and you’re not confident in what you’re doing with your game. So, I felt really comfortable with everything for the last few weeks.”

But does McIlroy fear he peaked too early for the U.S. Open, that he spent all his powder in Canada? The answer would be a resounding no.

“Last week is over, it’s done, and you move on to the next week,” McIlroy said. “I keep saying that’s what’s wonderful about golf, whether you win or lose, you go to the next week and it is sort of forgotten about and you start again.

“You can’t dwell on success or failure, and you just move forward and keep looking forward. And I think that’s the best way to approach if you win one week and you’re trying to go into the next week and do the same thing.”

Well, he won’t shoot 22 under like he did last week, for the U.S. Open is a different kettle of fish that requires a different mindset. But there’s no reason he can’t keep hunting for birdies despite playing in a tournament where par is your friend.

“If you are playing well, you don’t need to settle for pars, you can go out there and get after it,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be the typical grind out your pars. If you feel like you can make birdies, go out and get after it.”

Sounds like a good plan.

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